When you hear the phrase, Table Scraps, you may well think of edible leftovers, an assortment of lukewarm, ersatz foodstuffs, the sort of scrapings for which the family Labrador would delight to angle. The phrase might equally make you think of bickering with siblings, either over important philosophical matters, or possibly over entitlement to the aforementioned leftovers, whilst gathered for Sunday dinner. The album, Autonomy, is more the latter – a bolshy half-hour of scrappy wrangling and psych-soaked agitation.
It’s Goth-gilded garage, with strains of scruffy glam and the more sartorially-elegant (American) end of punk. You’ll hear shades of The Cramps, albeit less innuendo-ridden. It’s no surprise that the album artwork has an Elvira pinball machine in the corner of a greasy spoon. The Gothic undertones are further reinforced by the track ‘Frankenstein’, which evokes the presence of Mary Shelley’s eponymous genre-bending scientist, who stitched together an outsized being out of human parts. The song advocates that, “What I do is for the good of the people.” On balance of this album, it’s hard not to link that altruism with Table Scraps.
Whilst consisting of a heady mix of sounds from previous eras, this Birmingham three-piece construct their own prodigious presence without any immediate nod to one particular influence. They begin the album by sounding like first-album Arctic Monkeys, with vocal stylings from 1964’s ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ by Them. After only a few bars, we hear their first lyrical challenge, “Are you sick of me?” They’re testing us, but passing each test.
We quickly hear more of the same millennial self-doubt, with ‘I’m A Failure’ lamenting, “I hate everything I do… And it’s all because of you.” ‘Treat Me Like Shit’ is not an invitation, but an observation of someone else’s inauspicious conduct, and ‘Lyin’ Thru Yer Teeth’ takes Slade’s approach to phonetic spelling and further indicates Table Scraps’ aversion to toxic relationships.
There’s some swagger to the album, too. ‘Always Right’ has the double-edged quality of being strident and indomitable, with “No matter what you say / It’s going to go my way” and “I have autonomy / You’re going to follow me.” It’s as much your forthright mate who refreshingly doesn’t take any gip, as it is your feisty colleague who could start a fight with himself in a phone box.
Forgoing a big-label deal and staying DIY is either wilfully doing things the hard way, or staying true to yourself. Either way, it gives you autonomy, the album’s title. It could render you as out of place as an astronaut in a greasy spoon (as on the album cover), or it could place you in a position where you can fashion whatever elements of the past you damn well choose and meld them into the present.
IDLES’ Joe Talbot recently asserted that if you hadn’t caught onto Table Scraps, then you were a “fuckin’ idiot”. It’s quite an accomplishment to make it onto IDLES’ shitlist. You must have done something profound to qualify, although deep-seated idiocy does seem to be a widespread 21st Century malaise. If Table Scraps have the IDLES seal of approval, then they must have something going for them.
Autonomy is out on 23rd February through Zen Ten.