Pips – Floppy God (album)
Leeds-based outfit Pips are a leftfield band; I’m not entirely sure how to describe them. Avant-garge? Autistic? In my notes I’ve written “cheeky chirpy weirdo thingrock”, which goes to show 1.) how useless my notes tend to be and 2.) that Pips are pretty good at dodging attempts to categorise them.
I’ll make another attempt: if Mclusky were a lo-fi three-piece who had somehow heard Future of the Left whilst living in Leeds alongside that city’s fertile crop of unusual rock ensembles (Bilge Pump, That Fucking Tank, Lords etc) alongside other midlands/north math-flavoured contemporaries like the recently reviewed Diamonds and Aged Yummy, you might get something that sounded a bit like Pips.
Coming at it from a more mechanical angle, the band rock a very lo-fi sound with a distinct guitar tone; the bass chases after the guitar and typically follows its weird staccato riffs; the vocals are a halfway house between spoken-word and snarls. Lyrically, well, there’s some sort of thread to unpick and follow through the maze here, but they’re oddball at the very least.
I find myself thinking of the old “pronk” label that Org Records used to float – do they still? – to describe something with a clear punk rock aesthetic and influence but which shoots off in an entirely different direction. It was never a consistent label and really could be applied to a lot of bands, but it certainly fits here.
Drawing together all the words I’ve heaved all over the paragraphs above, Pips are rocking some sweet autistic math-punk, characterised by jagged edges and staccato rhythms that refuse to stay still, with various song parts leaping back and forth, regularly abandoning themselves in the pursuit of some fresh idea. You might find the lyrics difficult to follow, or perhaps just too daft, but the way the metre and pitch of the vocal delivery changes so readily to match whatever else is going on is impressive in its own way.
Probably the best highlights of their almost-indefinable and clearly distinct style are ‘Grimaces’ – featuring actual singing, albeit the line “it’s filled to the brim with grimaces”, and a guitar riff that sounds like it’s escaped from a 16-bit shmup – and ‘FK in the Coffee’, a song which references the Twin Peaks-esque take on survival horror Deadly Premonition. One of the most impressive tunes is the closer, ‘I Left a Child There’, which kicks off with an unexpectedly hooky intro before proceeding to loop and repeat itself more than most of its fellow tracks; what changes it does exhibit are smooth and organic evolutions. That’s true up to about halfway, anyway: after that it’s back to what Pips do best.
For all that Floppy God is refreshingly different and plenty varied – both overall and within individual songs – it’s not a record I’ve found stirring at any point. It’s possible that these jagged licks and deliberately oddball approach just don’t push my buttons, because Pips sure are fun to listen to. I’m glad they exist and I do look forward to seeing what comes next, but I can’t shake the feeling that something is missing.