There is no other band, on earth, like this one. Once renown for their costumes, synchronized dance routines, daft stage names and generally being a bit too wacky for most listeners, Aleks and the Ramps have done what few bands can manage, which is release the album of their career seven years into it.
Facts sees the band dial back the weirdness and focus on songs, hooks and sounds. Accessibility and consistency have never been overarching goals for this band but Facts has both in spades, though instead of using these qualities to increase their appeal and audience, it’s as if chasing fidelity and getting tuneful are tools in an ever-increasing arsenal of weapons a battle against mediocrity. The breakthrough triumph of Antique Limb from 2010’s brilliant Midnight Believer album was passed off in interviews as an accident by Aleks Bryant, but Facts makes him into a total liar.
There are few bands who could be seen to be ‘reining in the weirdness’ and open an album with the lyrics ‘I came dressed to depress / It was my first day of work at the Ministry of Excess’ (‘Crocodiles’), but the directness and visual-heavy style of Bryant’s lyrics are only the most overt of the many powers this band possess.
Over the last seven years The Ramps have been prolific, each release sounding brighter and punchier than the last, but this album sounds as if was born from a universe of its own, which, given the recent replacing of two members, is not entirely untrue. There are still the entwining lead guitar lines of Simon Connolly and warm melodies of Joe Foley’s bass to push you through the imaginative and unpredictable twists and turns, while new members Pascale Barbare’s (beats) and Sez Wilks’ (keyboards) contributions beautifully back Bryant's warm close breathy vocals. Bryant’s voice and the band’s production lends a sense of solemnity to the ridiculous images of advice he gives ('Another night filled with undergraduate dread / You sleep with a Super-soaker under your bed /And you pay someone to impart these little truths / That any old reflective surface should have told you / By now' – ‘In The Snow’), but unusually for such a large band, they sound best when each member has roughly equal input. The daft brilliance synth-pop of Bummer will probably always sound fresh and unlike any other band and inadvertently serves as a swansong for previous members Janita Foley and Jon Thija.
Despite the lead-off single Middle-Aged Unicorn on a Beach With Sunset and its fittingly ingenious video receiving play, live shows are always impressive and these songs with their carefree instrumentation and meticulous construction deserve and reward all the attention they get. Songs that take in walks in suburban parks, the Serengeti, outer galaxies, an interplanetary Dad and the Redmond Barry reading Room at Melbourne Uni are never going to come from another band, and for that we should be grateful for the sadness, sacrifices, imagination and sheer talent that combined to make Facts.