Let’s Eat Grandma review – a singular, genre-blurring vision

Electrowerkz, London
Norwich’s otherworldly teenage friends veer between breathtakingly original… and too infantile for their own good

Backlit, the much-hyped Norwich teen duo Let’s Eat Grandma start their set in a blur of whirling long hair and hands playing pat-a-cake in the gloom, an enigma wrapped in creepy infantilism. The depth-charge beats of their extraordinary debut single, Deep Six Textbook – imagine Cocteau Twins playing trip-hop, or early Joanna Newsom gone witch house – lend a grown-up, funereal edge to the playground pastime, without quite tipping over into the gothic. This is the single that sent ripples around the internet on its release in February, alerting the wider world to strange and original goings-on out east. It is every bit as beguiling live.

With their faces often obscured as they play keyboards or glockenspiel, the two 17-year-old friends are virtually indistinguishable, layering their treated vocals over one another until they have an echo chamber. I happen to know they look more like young women in 2016 than feral orphans from 1916, but that’s just because I saw them outside the tube station earlier wearing fierce blue eyeshadow, their hair up in lush top-knots.

With few distinct endings or between-song chat, Let’s Eat Grandma’s works bleed icily into one another, adding to the sense of disbelief suspended, of outsiderdom chafing against tradition. You only really know Deep Six Textbook becomes Eat Shiitake Mushrooms when a glockenspiel intro gives way to some startling beats, shattering the spell, the action moving to a haunted fairground disco sometime this decade.

Watch the video for Deep Six Textbook.

Even when the lights come up a touch, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth remain doppelgangers. They move about the stage swapping instruments, periodically fetching a saxophone or strapping on a mandolin: one organism with many limbs – Walton probably plays marginally more instruments – and one vision with many confounding iterations.

Their debut album, out in a fortnight, is called I, Gemini, reinforcing the idea of twinned souls. It presents a singular, otherworldly vision of music that dismantles genre almost entirely, mixing untutored “outsider artist” vibes with the sense that these two young women are probably more switched-on than their cultivated woodland sprite image allows for. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Lorde – to whom the duo have been obviously compared – gives the pair the millennial version of “the Bono talk”.

As with the 1975, Let’s Eat Grandma might say that genre just isn’t relevant to them, as they rap unexpectedly over breakbeats, play the recorder with sincerity and irony, and thumb their noses at structure. A song such as Eat Shiitake Mushrooms, for instance, veers from amazing to eyebrow-raising and back half a dozen times, recalling early Charli XCX, with its grasp of US R&B sass, at its best; spouting remedial rhymes about fungi at its worst.

Rapunzel does the same thing. It starts with a piano line that suggests a Tim Burton fairytale, and you think you know where you are: another dark take on the nursery. Suddenly, though, the piano melody becomes immeasurably wise beyond its years, the recorder playing elegant and Japanese-sounding counterpoint. This is actual art, quite breathtaking in its unexpectedness.

A few bars later, though, and you are in the presence of quite well-brought-up teenage girls again, who might just be toying with the very intense, disproportionately male audience. (What is it, you wonder, about two teenage girls playing pat-a-cake that so enchants?)

“My cat is dead! My father hit me!” intones Walton, petulantly. “I ran away. I’m really hungry!” The effect is like fingernails on a chalkboard, and you wonder how this mannered squawking made it past at least two managers, the record’s producer and any number of ears at Transgressive, their label.

Listen harder, though, and Let’s Eat Grandma claw you back. The album’s publicity materials note that inspirations for this song included a variety of Rapunzels – not least Genie , an infamously damaged young woman who spent the first 13 years of her life in a dark room, at the mercy of her psychotic father and prodded by scientists thereafter.

“There is something strange in my mind,” chorus Let’s Eat Grandma, as the track reaches a crescendo. “And there is something weird in my head.” There really is.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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