The involuntary grinding of the teeth, the title means, and there will inevitably be those that give the Bruxism EP mere seconds before responding in this way. Yes, it does sound quite a bit like Foals. That’s right, they’re from Oxford too. Indeed, Yannis Philippakis did produce one of the tracks here. So what. For anyone looking to smugly consign Trophy Wife to a cosy pigeonhole these five tracks should serve as something of a riposte.
It’s been less than a year since the band emerged from the rubble of Jonquil, debut single ‘Microlite’ welding a quiet melancholy to a dancefloor sensibility, and the three-piece have taken little time to stand out amongst an indie scene swollen with jagged guitars and brash personalities. Here they’re going further still, enlisting a different producer for each track, from folk/laptop wizard James Yuill through to the remix go-to-guy Ewan Pearson.
It’s a risky move, as anyone who remembers Blues Explosion’s Damage will attest: that album had more producers than listeners, any trace of the band’s identity drowned amongst a cacophony of competing sounds and egos. But whatever the press release implies it’s not the various collaborators that are the story here but Trophy Wife themselves, taking just twenty minutes to calmly, incrementally subvert our preconceptions.
Bruxism starts off predictably enough, ‘Canopy Shade’ furrowing a pretty well-worn groove of jangling, mathy riffs and upbeat synths. It’s breathless and addictive if a little insubstantial, Plaid’s crisp production shearing away any rough edges to leave a perfect dose of pop.
But the sugar-crash soon follows, the title track retaining the beat but taking on a minor key as the soundtrack from Labyrinth cascades behind Jody Prewett’s lovesick vocals. It’s here that Trophy Wife make their impression, in songs that dance with an autumn’s hue and a sweet, sad smile.
It’s a formula repeated through ‘Seven Waves’ and ‘Sleepwalks’, the band a contradiction of poise and confidence wracked with a fragility that just makes them more appealing, like Memory Tapes or I Was A Cub Scout or even, at points, Wild Beasts. But the EP’s key reveal comes at its close, in the broken, sparing echoes and textures of ‘Wolf’, the familiar drive of rhythm and bass traded for something darker, less defined and a heck of a lot more interesting, Prewett’s voice the only anchor in a rising mesh of sound. It’s here that Bruxism success lies: in showcasing the band’s shift from the comfort zone afforded by their genre towards something a little, well, unsettling, they’re meeting our expectations head-on, toying with and twisting and finally destroying them.
The mists are rising and the nights grow dark, and the end-of-year lists will be coming soon. It won’t be long until the ‘ones to watch’ start looming, their shadows cast across the new year and Trophy Wife surely among them.