I'm beginning to think that Battles are the grand pranksters of rock music - well, rock music or pop music, I don't think I'm sure any more. Their career was kicked off with three singles on three labels, just to confuse people. Blasting forward a mix of pummelling math-flecked rock music, pseudo hip-hop and confusing experimentalism, the band quickly shot into avant-stardom thanks in some way to their supergroup status with ex Don Cab man Ian Williams, progeny of Antony Braxton, Tyondai Braxton (who plays the role of charismatic frontman), ex-Helmet super-drummer John Stanier and ex-Lynx guitar god Dave Konopka. They were the darlings of the ailing math-rock scene, but then they were never really math rock, something they chose to prove on their Warp Records debut single, 'Atlas' which hit like a brick to the face earlier this year.
The track (which also appears on this album) was a brazen and merciless fusion of glam rock and helium vocals and made mincemeat of all and any who heard it, and while initially I was reserved about the direction in which they were heading, it all made sense when I layed my hands on the full-length album. 'Mirrored' is the perfect representation of a band who don't mind if they piss people off, they don't mind if they upset the staid old guard of the avant-garde, they're punk music, they're rock music, they're p-funk, hip hop, r+b, they're new jack - dammit they're anything they choose to be and everything they want, and rarely do a band manage to pull this off with such effortless credibility. I'm actually shocked at how much I like 'Mirrored' to be honest, I always struggle with albums that have a very knowing sense of humour, but the more I listen to this album the more it makes me laugh, and not necessarily at it, but at the sheer bravery it takes to get away with the concept. It's almost like Mr. Bungle or Frank Zappa or even Captain Beefheart re-wired for a new generation, Battles are stepping into the world of the arch-pranksters, and they're not afraid to make it very clear that they're going to win a place at the very top of the league table. There's still the gloriously technical in-human musical prowess which we heard on 'EP C/B EP' but we have chanted playground vocals, beatboxing, chunky synthesizers, and an energy, man an energy that defies all logic. If you've managed to catch the band live then you'll know what I'm talking about - their live shows simply need to be heard to be believed, but this visceral experience is translated pitch-perfectly into the record, to the point where it's almost exhausting to listen to. By the time you reach the album's final moment, the 'classic Battles' shred-math-grind of 'Race:Out' you feel like you've conquered the London marathon and won - it's a jubilant, sweaty, involving album and surely something which will be remembered for years to come. They just don't make 'em like this very often, you owe it to yourself to grab a hold of this exceptional record. Awe-inducing, and funny with it - who would have thought that math-rock would develop a sense of humour? Brilliant.
1. Race : In
7. Bad Trails
9. Snare Hangar
11. Race : Out