Label: Independently Released
Runtime: 50 minutes
Release Date: 09/11/2020
How does one explain Steam Powered Giraffe to the uninitiated? On the one hand, they’re a group of family and friends who make catchy tunes about random things. On the other, they are a trio of steam-powered robots reprurposed for entertainment who have lived for over a century and have also travelled into space and other timelines. Frankly, when a band is willing to come up with an elaborate backstory, I’m inclined to treat that version of events as the official canon.
Less narrative than some of their previous offerings, 1896 gathers twelve songs of various styles and pumps them directly into your ears. From the earworm that is Eat Your Heart, to the heartfelt Transform, via the epic Hot on the Trail and the truly bonkers What’s In A Name? With such a variety of songs, it’s inevitable that some are better than others. Eat Your Heart remains my favourite, while Olly and the Equinox Band doesn’t do much for me. At over five minutes long, some of the songs do linger a bit longer than I’d like, and there’s a fair bit of instrumental music throughout. When the lyrics do come, however, they’re as weird and sing-along as they’ve ever been. Special mention has to go to Trnasform, a rerecording of an earlier song that massively changes things up, sampling the classic Honeybee and dancing between musical genres from disco to metal. This is a song with heart, and the closest the album comes tobeing serious.
Over the years, the Steam Powered Giraffe lineup has changed multiple times. Founding members Rabbit and the Spine are back as usual, but this time are joined by new member Zero. Zero brings a new dimesnion to the band with his soulful stylings, and thogh it’s far from my favourite genre of music, his solo performances on Shattered Stars and Lyin Awake are a wonder to hear. of course, the robtoic trio are at their finest when harmonising, and it’s in the group songs that they bring their fine blend of musical ability and gentle yet weird comedy.
Though it lacks any of the plotting you’ll find the band’s earlier offering The Vice Quadrant, 1896 ends with a a narrative piece that hints at troubled times ahead. Whether or not there is any payoff for this is yet to be seen, but it might just be there to confuse you. With robots, who can tell?
Overall, 1896 is a fun little album that won’t cause you too much of a headache. it’s quirky, it’s charming, and it’s well worth a look.