There are two sides to the Cesarians and I know which I prefer. The first half of Pure White Speed is a flamboyant, gothic take on grand guignol, full of dramatic theatrical gestures and art-rock postures (sample lyric: “I have a fixation: call it my ‘Mandalay’”). It’s full of the aggression of the early Bad Seeds and the darkness of the Sisters of Mercy but the sound is punctuated by brass and soaring strings, which add new dimensions to the songs. Opener ‘Meltdown’ marries thuggish metallic guitars and piledriver percussion to stirring blasts of brass while ‘Woman’ stands out, first for the deadly imagination of the lyrics and second for the dirty blues sound. 'She Said’ is memorable for the “she said: ‘just fuck off’” chorus while ‘Manquake’ is bouncy synthpop with spectacular brass and a blast of deformed Beck (‘Loser’).
At this point I really liked the record but then I heard the other half, which is too arch and over-dramatic for comfort, filled with piano and fluttering strings. It contains their worst song, ‘Column’, sounding like a Freddie Mercury piano ballad, but also their catchiest and most poppy, ‘Control’, with its big rhythmic backing and pure harmonies. It leaves me in two minds about the Cesarians but hopeful that they’ll restrain their more serious romantic side and indulge in their larger than life gestures.