Leave it to historically-influenced folk-rockers By Toutatis to write a single inspired by a Greek myth, eh? Following up from debut EP Three More Nights Of The Rough Musick (reviewed here) and a subsequent split release with wonderfully lo-fi North-easterners Dressed Like Wolves (find them on Facebook/Bandcamp), the band’s next release will be a double A-side. Hero & Leander/World’s Worst is available now on Bandcamp, and will also be receiving a limited physical release as a CD with a rather nifty-looking cut cover. You can pre-order the CD here, and listen to/download the tracks below:
Before we start though, we should probably get ourselves up to speed with the myth of Hero & Leander – oh, thanks Wikipedia! As you might expect, it’s a tale of doomed love, with Hero guiding her lover Leander across the Hellespont strait by means of a lamp that she would light every night. This all goes swimmingly (sorry) until one stormy night when the wind blows Hero’s light out – Leander subsequently drowns, and Hero chucks herself off a tower to be reunited with him in death. Not the cheeriest tale then, but clearly By Toutatis’ lead songwriter Daniel Cochran decided that if it’s good enough for Shakespeare, Keats and Liszt, then it’s good enough for him too.
‘Hero & Leander’ feels like it was set on the fateful night of the couple’s demise, with thunderous drums and a sweeping violin line whipping up a storm for an intrepid guitar line to forge its way through. “Slip your trunks off/and I will light the lamp,” sings Cochran, before alluding to the tragedy that would occur that fateful night “Straight lines curve in darkness/direction will soon fail you.” But there are hints that this is more than just a straight re-telling of the story – could the line “you forge on/while my interest wanes” frame the myth as a metaphor for a dying relationship? Regardless of how you interpret it, ‘Hero & Leander’ rapidly cranks up the bombast levels in its first 20 seconds and never lets up from that point – it’s a stirring miniature epic that’s certainly worthy of its classical inspiration.
‘World’s Worst’ continues in a similar vein – drums continuing to gallop relentlessly on while the Robbie Major provides another evocative violin performance, eventually conjuring up the kind of frenzy that The Velvet Underground might be proud of. The track is underpinned by a crushing sense of melancholy, describing a person who’s very much at a low point – “I am the world’s worst,” sings Cochran, in the voice of a man clearly resigned to live a hollow shell of his former life. So, to recap, that’s a mythic tragedy and a morose character study, all within the space of 6 minutes – yet more evidence that By Toutatis are far more inventive than your average band.
Hero & Leander/World’s Worst is available to download now, and released on CD on the 13th August.