Eugene Quell – A Great Uselessness (EP Review, Stream)
by Steven Spoerl
During the mad scramble of post-festival coverage, there was more than a month’s worth of material to go over. So, naturally, some releases slipped through the cracks. What that was attributed to is impossible to definitively state. Now, with today being a relatively slow day for new material (apart from the NPR First Listen streams of the new Blonde Redhead and The Gotobeds, that is), there’s a perfect opportunity to feature what’s proven to be one of the best releases of August: Eugene Quell’s A Great Uselessness.
Continuing on where the delightfully raucous Eugene Otto Quell left off back in January, Quell’s second EP of the year expands on everything that made his debut effort such an unlikely powerhouse. There’s still a weary confidence that roots these songs in something that feels both entirely real and connected to something completely intangible. All of the songs still feel like they’d fit snugly into the Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound wheelhouses, full of peculiar melodicism and searing blasts of fuzz. Off-kilter pop gets consumed by a ragged punk influence, resulting in something inexplicably compelling and expertly delivered.
What sets Quell apart from a growing number of like-minded peers is his grasp on songcraft. Every single one of the four songs on A Great Uselessness twists and turns, taking left turns where they could have just gone straight. It’s something that’s evidenced straightaway with the harsh 1-2 punch of “Hell Presidente” and “That One Song”, which both feature a completely unhinged manic energy and a tendency to lean towards the subversive. In the case of the former, it’s an absolutely gorgeous slow-burning bridge that winds up being a calm spot of sea in the middle of an otherwise ferocious onslaught- while “That One Song”, on the other hand, grows even fiercer and more deranged before falling apart into remarkably compelling ambient chaos.
Both of those first two songs also reveal Quell’s grunge, emo (think Sunny Day Real Estate), post-punk, and indie influences, something that A Great Uselessness‘ penultimate track, “Alta Loma” also underscores. Where the EP cements itself as a collection necessity, though, is the elegiac acoustic closer “And There Goes the Drugs”. For that song, Quell presents himself at his most vulnerable, leaning closer to Elliott Smith than Archers of Loaf. It’s a genuinely stunning moment that caps off another extraordinary effort from the Brighton-based musician, closing A Great Uselessness out on a note of intrigue that manages to further his promise. This isn’t just one of the best EP’s of August- it’s one of the best of the year.
Listen to A Great Uselessness below (and read along, as Quell’s graciously provided lyrical copy for each song) and order it from his bandcamp here (for US residents ordering a physical copy, expect to pay shipping).