Italia 90 – Living Human Treasure (Brace Yourself Records)
London based quartet Italia 90 release their debut album Living Human Treasure on 20 January via Brace Yourself Records. As with many artists the bands evolution slowed due to the pandemic. The album contains tracks from the band’s earliest days (‘New Factory‘, ‘Competition‘) alongside new tracks.
Living Human Treasure opens with the slightly foreboding ‘Cut‘ with its industrial soundscape and, at first, indistinct background vocals. The static fueled guitars and monotone of lead singer Les Miserables interact with the tap tap tap of percussion. Its immediate and attention seeking, demanding you listen. ‘Leisure Activities’‘ begins with a constant rhythm of the beating drums but also has a gloriously haunting guitar riff moving in and out. What a complex song this is. There is a funk element to it but its uncompromising with its twists and turns. Italia 90 follow no rules and their songs contain swift gear changes within them. The deep basslines also come into the mix while the whispered section quickly gives way to chaos and mayhem.
The abuse of women in the Magdalene laundries is directly addressed in the next track. The disdain expressed against the Irish Catholic church is literally spat out: “Magdalene, Magdalene, Magdalene, Magdalene the killer, Magdalene, Magdalene, Magdalene, Magdalene the killer”
As is befitting the subject matter it’s loud and repetitive, as if attempting to ensure all are aware of such an atrocity and that the victims should never be forgotten. Italia 90 use their music to make strong statements on social injustice, as well as commentary on the state of the nation. It is strong, opiniated and at times uncomfortable. In this case the unacceptable consequences of this institution is highlighted, and that is a power in itself.
Living Human Treasure was recorded at the residential Echo Zoo studio in Eastbourne. With five days booked the whole album was tracked within two days with producer Louis Milburn. For the rest of the allotted time, they explored the nooks and crannies of the building and the bounty of unusual instruments lying around to add mystical textures to the bones of the music.
‘Competition‘ and ‘New Factory’ are pre-pandemic songs which were given a new depth. The latter in particular with its reverb and lightness of touch is a highlight on Living Human Treasure. However Italia 90 are not one trick ponies. ‘The Mumsnet Mambo‘ was a pleasant surprise in the middle of this album. With its mambo beat and background chatter it’s a delight. The shortest track on the album its language sits uneasily with the title of the track and the soundscape, with its right-wing references and military connotations: “Urban guerrilla in the culture war, I’m a private in the PR core”.
The painting on the album’s cover shows a crowd of people all facing away from the viewer, the idea of the collective takes precedence over the individual: “I care deeply about the things that I’m singing about,” says singer, Les Miserable, “but I don’t think that it needs to be me that is saying it. I have my point of view, and think that the ideology that I’m forwarding in the songs is correct, and very important, but it’s not important that it’s me saying them. If I did, I would already be contradicting the things that I am saying in the songs.”
‘Funny Bones‘ picks the pace up again, with its guitar riffs and dancing beat, whereas ‘Golgotha‘ is completely different again. Quirky and off beat, the forthright lyrics are direct and to the point. Golgotha was the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The lyrics refer to the trampling of individuals: “kick you when you’re down then blame you for flinching“, as if individuals simply cannot win against the powers that be. The quiet section is deceptive, and by now we should know to expect the unexpected of Italia 90. Its followed by one of my favourite sections on the album, the chaos and noise drowning out the vocals which temporarily take a back set.
‘Does He Dream?‘ quietens things down a little. A slower pace and the return of the tap tap tap of the percussion and an echoey guitar. It’s thoughtful and considered, although the guitar still has a free rein in parts to let loose, and that final ting at the end.
It’s interesting that Italia 90 have stated the following: “We consciously drew on elements from other genres, like new wave, goth rock, post-hardcore, jazz, jungle and ranchera that have inspired us but which we hadn’t incorporated into our music previously”. This is absolutely evident on Living Human Treasure. ‘Tales From Beyond‘ is a fast-paced whizz of a track, dancey and bouncy, but just listen to those lyrics particularly in the spoken section – breathtaking. The final track is current single ‘Harmony’. The band have expanded on this six minute song which closes out the album:
“‘Harmony’ is a song written in three distinct parts. It begins by describing the seemingly endless bad behaviour of a serial wrong’un. We made sure it was repetitive to reflect the patterns of this bad behaviour. The middle section references radical feminist groups that have played a central role in countless revolutionary movements and their commitment to challenging the roots of oppression. We’re joined by Emily ‘The King’ King on saxophone for this part. The song ends with a more straightforward punk outro which we improvised in one take during a writing session. This song is the last track on our album and we liked the idea of ending it with a nod to the kind of music that we made when we first started the band”
Italia 90 have obviously put everything into this album. It’s complex and has such depth in its lyrical content. The music is varied and full of surprises with its changes of pace and genres. Live this will be thrilling to hear, and I suspect there will be plenty of inspiration for album number two with the turmoil in current affairs not looking to stabilise anytime soon.
For more information on Italia 90 please check out their facebook and twitter.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.
Subscribe to stay up to date and get news about compeitiions, festivals, new music and more!
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.