You know that expression “the best things come to those who wait”? Most of the time it isn’t true. Think about something you’ve really, really, really looked forward for. Got it. Was the result worth it? Birthday parties, first dates, FA Cup finals, new film releases, restaurant appointments, anyway, can sometimes feel a bit flat. Well, Italia 90’s debut album ‘Living Human Treasure’ is well worth the wait.
About 2017 I stumbled across the London quartet’s debut, self-titled, EP. I was excited and wanted to hear more. Since then, the band have drip fed us an EP here, a song there. Each has felt like a progression of their sound, but I wasn’t prepared for ‘Living Human Treasure’. The album talks more about social issues than stories of love, loss and redemption. ‘Tales From Beyond’ is scathing attack on part-time radicals. People who spout about injustice, if the outcome benefits them. ‘New Factory’ feels it’s about having low prestige, low pay jobs, but trying to eek out the best existence you can. Lyrics like “I could do whatever I wanna do…”, “I’mma be as free as me and you” and “once you’re free, you’ll never wanna move…”
The album opens with the double whammy of ‘Cut’ and ‘Leisure Activities’. Both let us know what this isn’t going to be an easy listen. Abrasive guitars. Wonky melodies. Sardonic lyrics. Caustic vocals. These are the order of the day. That’s pretty much what you want from punk isn’t it?
‘Competition’ is an old song that featured on their debut EP. Here are sounds more polished. This happens after a band have played a song live a couple of dozen times live. It takes on a different vibe to how it was originally conceived. The album ends with ‘Harmony’, and it’s one of the standout tracks. A grinding rhythm is the base for acerbic lyrics “red flags warnings, apologetic mornings” and “patterns behaviour, honorary saviour…” Halfway through the music changes. It becomes slightly mellow and thoughtful. This change in pace is a masterstroke but slightly short-lived. The curt melodies start up again until the final 45 seconds which, after a few moments silence, which is one of the most raucous moments on the album. Despite this ‘Living Human Treasure’ ends on a ponderous tone. It makes us question what we’ve just heard and what want to do about it.
The only downside with ‘Living Human Treasure’ is that it would have been nice if all the songs hadn’t featured on previous releases. On one hand this feels like a dickish thing to say. Why shouldn’t the band include their older songs on the album? They are fan favourites. It makes sense to re-record them in a decent studio than must pen a new song that might not be as good. Now, I get this, and agree, but those existing songs are great but were recorded four or five years ago. I want to hear where the band are now. Also, existing fans have an emotional connection to those original versions and while the new versions are good, they aren’t as powerful as the originals. Of course, I totally understand that not everyone was a fan of the initial releases, or heard them at that time of release, but those original versions have a certain swagger, and power, to them that the re-recorded versions don’t quite have. Saying that, ‘Living Human Treasure’ is a wonderfully exciting and enjoyable album. Italia 90 have and axe to grind and grind it they do.
Good things do come to those who wait. Since the band first emerged in 2016, they have grown into a tight musical unit who aren’t afraid to speak their mind when they see inequalities around them. On ‘New Factory’ Italia 90 sing “Once you’re free, you’ll never wanna move…” Once you’ve played ‘Living Human Treasure’ you’ll never wanna stop, more like.
Words: Nick Roseblade