An eclectic mix of alt-pop tracks that explore everything from elation to embarrassment; Charlie’s Hand Movements cover the spectrum of emotion on their third album, Nuclear Tapes. The “deeply unsuccessful” pop duo – their words, not ours – have created a whopping 38 track album that fuses elements of pop, rock, plastic soul, spoken word, and short instrumental passages to reflect the absurdity of life.
Formed in Essex whilst studying for a Fine Art degree, Charlie’s Hand Movements are multi-instrumentalists Lance Keeble and Adam Gardner. Despite the apocalyptic title of their new offering, Nuclear Tapes is impressively upbeat and funky, with each track melting into the next to create one epic musical musing on everything from presenter Dominik Diamond, astronomer Patrick Moore, public service announcements in a post-apocalyptic airport lounge, to guidelines on how to be human (see track ‘Human Guidelines’ for more info.)
There’s a low-key acerbic streak of humour running throughout the record, from the apologetic protest lyrics on ‘5 O’clock Shadow’ (“I hope you don’t mind a little rebellion / but this is mine”) to the titles of tracks like ‘Bin Day’, ‘Bangers’ and ‘80% Bad Boy’, Charlie’s Hand Movements are adept at transforming feelings of negativity into unusual pop-tinged extrapolations. ‘Vultures’ is an unexpectedly dreamy hypothesis on compatibility, whilst ‘Alligator’ is a big ball of buzzing psych/garage rock. With such a vast array of influences and themes, the cohesive feel and sound of Nuclear Tapes is genuinely impressive.
Gardner says the album was largely inspired by the “deeply peculiar” 1998 record SIX, released by brit-pop band Mansun. “After making a huge-selling, critically-acclaimed debut record, Mansun decided to make a 70 minute intense, uncategorizable, and genuinely batshit crazy second record” Gardner explains. “Commercially, it couldn’t match the first one and they never recovered, but anybody who knows it knows exactly what people like us see in it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the somewhat disparate collection of tracks here is our homage to SIX. It’s our absurd vanity project”.
Whilst it may be “absurd”, Nuclear Tapes is Charlie’s Hand Movements’ way of showing that making a record with love and patience is ultimately the only way to artistic and personal satisfaction. A record that took three years to get together, and one which Gardner still insists is “mixed down and largely unfinished”, Nuclear Tapes is a genuinely fun and joyful offering from a pair of incredibly modest, talented producers. It’s not for everyone, but that doesn’t remove any of the charm.