Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Skinny Pelembe – Hardly The Same Snake Review

Retrospectively, Skinny Pelembe’s second album is exactly what he and his listeners needed. Electronic fuzz bolstered by some percussion explosions on Same Eye Colour gives Pelembe some stern momentum and harshness to his roster. Hardly the Same Snake is hardly the same artist that brought audiences Seven Year Curse. This is a new dawn for the alternative artist. Anger, venom and gorgeous beats to round it all out are key to Pelembe’s new work, a retrograde explosion that sounds right at home with the stylistic choices and powerful new changes he makes. Riffing through an alternative R&B experience with noisy intent and powerful results makes for quite the treat. Nine tracks are all Pelembe needs to leave an impression on newcomers and to gain further confidence of those heading back to him for more. 

An abundance of valuable interpretations and styles are up for grabs here, and Hardly The Same Snake slithers through, undefined and indefinable. It is Pelembe’s greatest strength that he can move the trip-like momentum of Same Eye Colour to the shifty, vocally led title track. He knows he has changed and with that his style too. Smart dressing, visual changes and a response to the world around him charge Pelembe’s lyrics with that stark openness reserved for the most intimate and enjoyable of artists. Just stunning. Movement comes through Hardly The Same Snake which redefines Pelembe. To say he has matured is not quite right, he has always held a lyrical strength that is expanded on here. They are engulfed in instrumental beauty, a style that provides power to repetition. 

His worries of spiralling, of where listeners and the world around them go from here, is charted well on Deadman Deadman Deadman and the fear comes clear. Hardly The Same Snake is shedding its skin like the reptile in the title. Hardly The Same Snake and the artist behind it ooze a powerful message, a warmth to it and a chilling finger on the pulse of the world around him. Tonally and instrumentally consistent is there power behind this, the hopes of rejecting the “wise man” observations on Don’t Be Another are incredible. Rejection of conformity, of the pop culture before and the instilled values that don’t feel right. Pelembe has it all covered and covered well. Quick-cut tracks Like A Heart Won’t Beat and Secret Hiding Place are sweet little riffs and make up for the somewhat forgettable tones of Charabanc.  

Everything falls into place nicely and where Hardly The Same Snake briefly squanders the momentum it builds so naturally, this Pelembe album is his best piece so far. His ideas and thoughts are clear but manage to shift themselves to the rear view when instrumental clarity is introduced. Well, There’s a First makes desperately lush use of that monotone traction. Brooding, crawling and almost defeated, Pelembe works best when he comes back from that, when he lunges forward with fire in his heart and venom in his voice. Those are spectacular builds and the pacing matches the process of Hardly The Same Snake, a piece that knows when to ice itself and when to pounce.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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