Wanderlust of Venus is Manchester DIY emo heroes Claw the Thin Ice‘s third album. Sort of. Their previous two albums established them as heroes of the Manchester DIY emo scene, but Wanderlust of Venus sees them developing their sound into expansive proggy passages and even forays into synth pop, which, if you’ve only been aware of their reputation as DIY emo heroes will come as a surprise. But previous to them establishing their current lineup, frontman Ian Breen made weird, reverb-soaked lofi solo records under the same name, and he’s in, or has been in, dozens of other bands, from the spiky jangly punk of Well Wisher and the post rock of Day for Airstrikes to the moody electronica of Borland. So this new ground being broken for Claw the Thin Ice 2.0 shouldn’t come as a surprise. But as the breakneck punk of ‘Kawaii’ melts away into the gloss of ‘Wildlife’, it’s unexpected. And that’s just when the glistening keys start; with the otherworldly vocal of She the Throne‘s Alison Carney, it’s a definite statement of the scope of the record.
Speaking of the sheer scale of the album, the band began to write it before their previous album Exercise was even released, three years ago. That explains the enormous supporting cast, at least. It’s a family affair, that’s for sure; ‘Wildlife’ also features percussion from Liam Stewart, himself a member of dozens of bands including Burrowing with Breen. Dan Means from Kayo Dot lends smears of saxophone to opener ‘Houdini’ and album centrepiece ‘Heaviness’, lending it a similar air to Bowie‘s Blackstar in the instrumental passages. The guest appearances aren’t all successful; ‘Seasick’ features Tom Hall from Papayer but he feels lost in the shoegaze bluster of the chorus. His voice is buried in static and mixed low, which reduces some of the impact of the lyric “Love is a carcinogen that we breathe in”.
With all of these guest appearances it would be easy to assume that the album would be overstuffed or bloated, especially considering its length of more than an hour. But the length of these tracks allows the songs breathing space, it allows the band to explore tangents fully and tease out ideas in a satisfying way. Where Claw go from here is anyone’s guess.
Wanderlust of Venus is out now on Hanger Records.