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Album Review

Marenghi Beat – ‘Hot Salad’ [Album Review]

Review of Marenghi Beat’s sophomore album ‘Hot Salad’: a blend of ’90s nostalgia, modern blues, and electronic flair from the London duo.



Marenghi Beat ‘Hot Salad’ album artwork
Marenghi Beat ‘Hot Salad’ album artwork

Marenghi Beat, the London-based duo, kicks off their sophomore album Hot Salad with “Adam’s Roachclip,” instantly evoking the spirit of Odelay!-era Beck. The track’s 90s percussion, combined with the London pop influence, transports listeners back in time. The transition to “Mad” introduces a post-punk New Wave element reminiscent of XTC and Julian Lennon. Adam Burney’s harmonica playing stands out, infusing the track with bluesy soul that grounds it firmly in the blues territory.

An abrupt tempo shift arrives with “Return of the Diplodocus.” Slow crooning harmonica and electronic beats create a mournful, almost dolorous atmosphere. Matthew Searles’ vocal work, drenched in early 90s ballad influences like Duran Duran and Bryan Adams, adds layers of emotional depth. The song balances sincere emotional evocation with satirical undertones, making it a standout counterpoint to the duo’s signature blend of boombap and Americana soaked in blues.

Following their 2023 debut album, Zen, Kale and Locusts, Marenghi Beat’s Bandcamp description reads: “The bastard chimera of two men with vastly opposing attitudes towards music and life in general.” This rings true, especially with the spoken word tracks punctuating the album. Whether original or sampled, these tracks contribute to the 90s vibes in a manner reminiscent of Chumbawamba, as showcased on “NPC.” The lyrics, often focused on modern ennui and futility, are given a stage and a megaphone by Burney’s ever-present harmonica and the electronic collage that underpins them.

No Bad Times” showcases Burney’s harmonica practically speaking as a human, while Searles’ vocals cut through the syncopated track with purpose and grace. In contrast, “Country Gothic” deviates with more sampling and DJ scratching, though it ultimately feels a bit more like filler than a charged or fraught track.

Stones” returns to a more energetic pace, embodying the 90s new wave and pop influences that I’ve learned have become a hallmark of the duo. By this point, I’ve gotten wise to the funny trick this album plays on you, where the backing track might be forgettable mall pop if not for the unique fusion of harmonica and expressive vocals. By the time we reach “Enough,” a track that nods to Portishead, Flaming Lips, and even Zelda: Ocarina of Time (hey, I hear it), the nostalgia is almost overwhelming, with Searles’ vocals verging into Radiohead territory.

Confidence” delivers more of the same, with looped beats and a percussive backdrop keeping things fresh. Searles’ emotive vocals, more reminiscent of Robert Smith on this one, elevate this track into a standout, embodying the song’s namesake with soaring harmonica and vocal harmonies.

Marenghi Beat

Marenghi Beat

For me, “Steady Rolling” is the first miss on the album. The abrupt change in vocals feels diminishing rather than additive. The sing-speaking vocals, more akin to Keith Flint of The Prodigy, lack the energy and fire expected. Searles’ near-whispered refrain towards the end redeems the track somewhat, reminding us of the band I’ve been enjoying throughout the album.

Bringing us right back to the formula that’s been brimming with bombast, “Motivational Quotes” invokes INXS with its electronic backdrop while Burney’s harmonica and Searles’ Seal-like vocals meld seamlessly. It’s a ballad-y 90s send-up that works well, fitting perfectly within the album’s eclectic mix.

Album closer, “Marenghi Boat,” shifts to a delicate, near-twee vibe. The ambient loops and folk elements replace the bombast of electro-pop, creating a whimsical and serene end to the album. It feels like a swan song, a graceful conclusion to a release that’s sure to delight many.

Hot Salad Track Listing:

1. Adam’s Roachclip 03:27
2. Mad 03:18
3. Return of the Diplodocus 04:40
4. NPC 04:08
5. No Bad Times 04:07
6. Country Gothic 05:55
7. Stones 03:12
8. Enough 05:43
9. Confidence 04:12
10. Steady Rolling 05:27
11. Motivational Quotes 04:03
12. Marenghi Boat 07:16

Run Time: 58:28
Release Date: July 20, 2024
Record Label: Self-Release

Director of Communications @ V13. Lance Marwood is a music and entertainment writer who has been featured in both digital and print publications, including a foreword for the book "Toronto DIY: (2008-2013)" and The Continuist. He has been creating and coordinating content for V13 since 2015 (back when it was PureGrainAudio); before that he wrote and hosted a radio and online series called The Hard Stuff , featuring interviews with bands and insight into the Toronto DIY and wider hardcore punk scene. He has performed in bands and played shows alongside acts such as Expectorated Sequence, S.H.I.T., and Full of Hell.

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