The history of two-person music acts is a tombola galaxy of the sublime, the ridiculous, the stunning and the rambunctious. From the crimplene seventies to the digital noughties they have come in all shapes and sizes from the crooners: Peters and Lee and The Carpenters to the poppy: Ting Tings and Honeyblood, the out and out rockers: Deap Vally and Death From Above 1979 and the pared down: White Stripes and Diet Cig. Scrounge are on the cusp of rock and pared down but also, I hope, on the cusp of great things.
Scrounge are made up of Lucy and Luke (no surnames given) who met at London’s Goldsmiths College and coalesced into Fame Throwa Records, a DIY arts scene and music collective. Listening back to earlier releases I could hear their evolution; flexing musical muscles and testing out the glorious limitations of two instruments. You have to be way more creative when you have less marble to tease out your art. The Brace EP has a nervous edge and both this and ‘Crimson‘ have the feel of The Cure’s early 1980’s menace. On ‘Etch‘ you can start to see their sound taking shape: what starts as rolling low-key indie explodes half way through into wall of sound that, if it was in a film, would accompany startled birds exploding into flight out of the trees.
‘Purpose‘ starts with rumbling floor toms and a low guitar riff punctuated by percussive bursts from both. This is a febrile song that initially prowls and skulks and keeps to the shadows until the guitar flares up with a discordant arc-light of a riff. The mood of ‘Purpose’ is one of sketchy estates, the imminent threat of things kicking off or the lights being out in an underpass. The repetitive lyric of “There’s no purpose” permeates the song like a world-weary mantra but by the end of the song it’s a cry over a hurricane of cascading drums, guitar and vocals. There’s one final refrain from the angular riff and we’re out; breathless and dazed but exhilarated that we survived the storm.
‘Purpose’ is like the Sex Pistols ‘No Fun’ reinvented for the modern age. But unlike the insincere snarl of the Pistols, Scrounge seem to really ‘mean it man’. This song is part of what I see as a modern nihilism where non-mainstream music is fuelled by a cynicism for the world today. Scrounge is a very evocative band name; it suggests a number of things like not having enough: money, opportunity?, needing more: engagement, accountability, empathy? but I don’t think Lucy and Luke will have to try too hard to beg, borrow or steal the audience they deserve.