ALBUM REVIEW: The Flies ‘Pleasure Yourself’

Sean Cook and soundtrack-composing virtuosos The Insects regather for another helping of romance-tinged, passion-flaring cinematic pleasure.

Having moved from a major label to their friends from Library Music Recordings, The Flies were free to release their second LP – Pleasure Yourself – in their favourite format, a limited edition octagonal gatefold vinyl, alongside its online release on September 1st.

For the unenlightened ones such as I was until a couple of days ago, The Flies formed in Bristol around 2003. The are the fruitful, albeit massively overlooked project of ex-Spiritualized and ex-Lupine Howl vocalist/musician Sean Cook, and the EMI award-winning composer duo of Bob Locke and Tim Norfolk, aka The Insects. The band debuted in 2007 with All Too Human, a mind-bending set of 11 darkly sexual cinematic tracks, to which Pleasure Yourself comes as a worthy sequel.

For their second outing, The Flies have joined forces with producer and collaborator Andy Spaceland, and drummer Damon Reece, both of which have worked with Sean Cook in Alpha, Massive Attack, Spiritualized and Elizabeth Fraser. Drawing on a myriad of influences from 50’s and 60’s Americana and Exotica, to country music, to The Velvets; it is an album that has been let to gradually come to fruition rather than rushed, and the result is well worth the 6 year-long wait.

Opening track ‘One Day My Baby Will Leave You’ subtly but firmly sucks us into the album’s universe. Slow-paced and bittersweet, just like reviving happy memories of a love gone wrong, it has the effect of calming one down and detaching them from their own thoughts, to leave a blank mind fully susceptible to the power of the rest of the 11-long set. Not even remotely matching anything found on All Too Human, it may trick one into expecting a more tame record, but the following title track sets us right.

When ‘Pleasure Yourself’ flickers into life, we finally gather what the album is really about. The dark, sensual side of The Flies resurfaces, as the melting half-whispers escalate into a pain-tinged chorus about human vanity and selfishness. What comes after is essentially a set of beautifully intricate compositions centred around Sean Cook’s half-reciting vocals, each creating a unique atmosphere of its own.

There is the irresistible longing of ‘All I Want’. Then we go through the dark epic of ‘You Can’t Win’, to reach the lustful piece of pure sonic seduction that is ‘In Her Eyes’, undoubtedly the climax of the album. From there, the rest of the songs paint a wide spectrum of emotions from abyssal pain (‘No Wonder’, ‘Cuts’) to sweet melancholy, as in the calm and pleasant elegy ‘Lies’, and in the final track itself. It is a musical journey that unsettles yet pleases, and it needs to be experienced as no words can aptly describe it.

The immense composition mastery that The Flies display in Pleasure Yourself can only be matched by their unbreakable absence from the charts. And sadly so, as it is one of these bands that are gutsy enough to do everything that they want in the way they want without taking any current trends into account, resulting in inventive and absolutely overwhelming pieces of music to feast your senses on.

[Photo by Bill Butt]
Mariana Nikolova