The mere announcement of the existence of Piroshka was enough to prick the interest of critics and fans alike. Employing the combined efforts of Miki Berenyi (Lush), KJ McKillop (Moose), Mick Conroy (Modern English) and Justin Welch (Elastica), there was an instant and irresistible draw to discover what such a post-punk melting pot would have in store for us.
First off; it’s a supergroup in concept only. The component parts having been assembled through more organic than grandiose design. Welch was a friend of late Lush drummer Chris Acland, and the natural co-opted option when the former shoegazers-turned-Britpop outfit briefly reformed in 2015. Conroy stepped in to help when bassist Phil King withdrew from the reunion. Having been effectively in retirement since Acland’s death, Berenyi was cajoled to continue making music with a new project. Her partner KJ McKillop, of shoegaze pioneers Moose, completed the line-up and Piroshka was born. Early ideas were shared and songs were assembled, but with few expectations. The result is Brickbat.
‘[Opening track] This Must Be Bedlam signifies a band who don’t want too much of a fuss being made.’
The album stutters into life with This Must Be Bedlam, in terms of sound perhaps the least predictable of all the songs on Brickbat. It’s a spiky and gentle political rocker of a tune, with low-key applause at its conclusion. You sense that this signifies a band who don’t want too much of a fuss being made and that maybe the album title is a deliberate counterpoint to the bouquets to which they have all at times in their careers become accustomed – although never for too long.
‘Village of the Damned [is] immediately an album highlight.’
Village of the Damnedfollows and it’s immediately an album highlight. Confounding any pre-conceptions that might be created by any recognisable echoes of the artists’ former glories, a brass fanfare strikes up near the climax before tailing off into muted trumpet. As if from a byegone decade, it’s Terry Edwards’ playing. It had to be, really. Clearly there is no way that Brickbat is going to set out to play to a predictable audience but there are some hues of familiarity amongst the songs which lend them a comfortable feel. Next up, Never Enoughplays with electronica and 6/4 time signature which kicks a modicum of ass, before Blameless ventures dangerously into the kind of territory once occupied by Lush/Elastica mid-90s contemporaries Dubstar, albeit with a dreamier vocal from Berenyi. Later in the album Heartbeats follows a similar path. What’s Next?reflects an unprecedented sense of everything in the world being possible, and not necessarily in a good way. “How are we going to stop them if there’s no us?” enquires Miki rhetorically; bemoaning society’s divisions while the real enemies get away with it. A faultless drumming performance by Welch propels the song to its conclusion. Hated By the Powers That Be continues the theme of the underdog not getting their deserts; “do we accept our fate or stop the rot?” It’s an affecting effort and a good template for a signature sound, if Piroshka can ever decide to settle on one.
‘Lead single Everlastingly Yours is a trojan horse, with its imagery of slaughtered petals and trampled dreams.’
Lead single Everlastingly Yours is a trojan horse, with its imagery of slaughtered petals and trampled dreams. “Nobody here ever escapes” sighs Berenyi, twisting Prince’s old adage that forever is “a mighty long time”. Whether that’s religion or a relationship that is past its sell-by date, there is a heavy message festering below the levity of the glockenspiel melody and upbeat instrumentation. It’s the wolf in grandma’s clothing that the band’s name suggests.
Album closer She’s Unreal is the only track which truly nods to the hinterland of the Lush and early Moose back catalogues. It’s a natural ending for this, a brave first foray for Piroshka.
‘Brickbat is a solid debut; familiar without being predictable. ‘
Brickbat is a solid debut; familiar without being predictable. While it concerns itself with middle-aged takes on current themes, it handles them deftly. If a little too eclectic at times, Piroshka nonetheless hit upon more nuggets of gold than iron pyrite. After a somewhat disappointing end to the re-emergence of Lush, it is pleasing to hear Miki Berenyi engaged with music again and sounding revitalised and fresh. Whether this album will be a one-off isn’t clear; but if there is to be a continuation of Piroshka then a little more sonic coherence could see these old faces truly hitting the greatest of heights once more.
Words Iain Dalgleish.