If up to now we used to associate the acronym “Italia 90” exclusively with the last World Cup, played in Italy, it is means that’s time to assign it a new meaning.
In particular, in our pre-concert interview at the “Covo Club in Bologna”, the UK-made post-punk band “Italia 90” opens this 2023 with its first album. The album “Living Human Treasure,” it is a taste of which we were given a taste last summer with the release of the singles “Magdalene” and “Leisure Activities”.
But now, let’s go through this “Living Human Treasure” track by track and see if from the soccer bleachers the “Italia 90’s” fans will be satisfied with their first album.
The Italia 90’s cut
Let’s start with the first track on the tracklist: “Cut”. The sound of the song is decidedly gloomy, and note after note we get the sense of unease (this accentuated by a toll or bong). Our feeling is as if the heavy drum sticks are being played not by Joe Dangerous, but by the guard accompanying the condemned man to the gallows, waiting for the executioner to do his part. (Or perhaps we have had indigestion from panettone and cotechino? ndr).
“I’m guilty, I’m guilty”Cut – Italia 90
The ground-breaking tracks of “Living Human Treasure”
At thi point we continue listening the album following the next track: “Leisure Activities”, whose essence we had already described here. A fast-paced, almost anxiogenic rhythm in perfect Italia 90 style, is the main feature of this groove with a strong foreground line. This is given thanks to Les Miserable’s voice entering on tiptoe, then exploding after an edgy, distorted riff.
Moving over, we also find those comforting post-punk sounds in the track “Magdalene,” which is characterized by distortion and a sparse middle section, with the vocals standing out over the drums and an unobtrusive bass line.
Not to create feuds between historically and culturally different factions, but some of the sounds in these tracks straightened the ears of some Fontaines D.C. fans, recalling some of their recent tracks and album “Skinty Fia”. Well, what a nice battle!
Living Human Treasure: between masterpiece and radio hits.
We continue the analysis with “Competition,” which is confirmed to be the masterpiece of Italia 90. Perhaps their most identifiable song, to the point of making a new recording of it for this new album release. Even as a result of the new recording, the song characteristics are not undermined, but rather enhanced. Absurdly, this song remains the ideal closing track for one of their live shows.
One difference seems to be in the slightly slower -if more intense- tempo. The frontman’s voice is more pronounced in lyrics and less hurried in pronunciation, with much more attention to detail and tone. Furthermore, the beautiful bass line is also tweaked upward, while the guitar distortion keeps its ambience, leveraging no shortage of distortion. The final part of the song enhances this “remastering,” which is definitely a positive sign that lingers in the listener’s ear.
Toward the middle of the album we find the track “New Factory.” One of the most celebrated tracks, also re-edited for the occasion, with here it sounds also cleaner and more filtered than on the EP release. The vocals are placed more prominently, however this is not removing the proper attention to the instruments,. A track this, that we suggest to propose as a radio passage to spread to the masses! Or to be used as well as the most accurate visiting card of Italia 90 band.
What a surprise! The time has come for the MUMSNET Mambo track. So far the “Living Human Treasure,” is an album purely characterized by harsh and strong sounds typical of punk. But it’s with the arrival of this song “MUMSNET Mambo” that the listener got surprised by a jazz blues touch. Such an astonishment that if we may close our eyes, we’ll be tele-transported to London’s Troubadour.
In fact, this choice it’s a very successful attempt to experiment with an exotic genre for the band “Italia 90”. Especially with the addition of a spoken interlude. Thee very spot-on is the choice of including this short track in the middle of the tracklist, to give a sort of interlude to the listener. The big surprise is given thank to the musicians’ ability to perform with a different genre than we are used to attributing to them.
Interludes that dishevel…
With some of their latest tracks the listener may feel their potential in the live dimension. We are talking in this case about “Funny Bones.” Here, they pick up that post-punk touch, with some London pub sound or some Big City sound. The sound seems escaping through the doors, disheveling dandies strolling around town sipping martinis or margaritas.
The same fate marks the eighth track, “Golgotha,” which features another interesting refrain, redundant and again at times anxious, reminiscent off the top of my head of those Gran Turismo video game jingles from the late 1990s (just to stay on topic). But don’t be fooled by the apparent calm, as the song on the finale gives way to a harder sound on the chorus.
Among thunderstorms, dreams and glimpses of sunshine in the clouds….
What about the track “Does He Dream?” An interesting track, appearing in the tracklist as a glimpse of sunshine among leaden clouds after a heavy thunderstorm, thanks to an interesting bass turn in the opening by Bobby Portrait . The almost militaristic rhythm dampened by a sunny guitar riff and the comforting tone of the frontman’s voice. This time Georgie McVicar drops the distortion letting notes from a piano turn the song into a comforting morning wake-up call (do you recall a bit a sort of “Sunday Morning” by The Velvet Underground in it? ndr).
But from the beautiful dream of an “end time” the typical sound is resumed with the next track, “Tales from Beyond.” The riff is once again hypnotic, and the vocals are more scratchy and explode in the chorus, while the verses feature bass and drums. The tempo then slows down nicely in the finale.
Italia 90 at the World Cup?
What about the last track, “Harmony?”. Well, we expect that as soon as possible it will be adopted as a stadium chorus by some English Championship fans, if not even Premier League fans. We advise English ultras to hurry up! Harmony song has a really lendable sound for a soft pogo at a live show by the band, rather than in the corners during a soccer match. We trust that upon listening the album, it will resonate in our heads for a long time, thanks to the engaging rhythm and lyrics that stick in our mouths with ease.
But even here we are surprised with the abrupt slowing down of the pace, and a fitting conclusion with the sudden and strong punk (almost ska) reprise, which makes us pogie until we throw out the last drop of sweat from our bodies.
Final red bream…
In “Living Human Treasure,” the traits that characterize the band’s sound are respected, connoting the identity that Italia 90s want to sew on themselves: namely, the typical post-punk sounds.
However, there is a sense of the band’s desire across the Channel not to remain relegated to their comfort-zone. There is also a desire to explore and diversify, trying to combine seemingly distant sounds, but without losing their own distinctive traits.
An album that flows by in a flash, but leaves its own imprint inside. We did not notice any particular virtuosity. In fact, Italia 90 go straight to the point, conveying their message bare and raw without too many frills (as perhaps the punk style demands for itself).
Italia 90 with “Living Human Treasure” thus confirm their position in that new post-punk current that at least in the United Kingdom is finding a suitable lifeblood. Which we hope will take more and more possession of our peninsula.
Below the Spotify link to listen the new “Living Human Treasure” album of Italia 90:
Emmanuele Olivi and Francesca Bandieri