In 1999, a trio of guitarists, a pair of singers, a keyboard player and a drum machine attending Oxford University formed a band, gained a bassist, lost a singer, and created beautiful experimental glitter-art post-punk distinguished from similar acts by the use of spoken poetry in place of sung vocals. After releasing a split CD and an EP, the eccentrically-named Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia... released their first full-length album, Indian Ink, in late 2001; I'm sorry to report that it seems really hard to get hold of now.

My Elixir; My Poison, their second album, was released on Truck Records in February 2003, despite guitarist Mark Halloran quitting to return to medical school half-way through its recording. The best-known (relatively speaking) track is probably Chinese Lantern, from the lyrics of which the album's title is taken, which (like a couple of songs on the album) follows a pretty genre-typical pattern — clean guitar chord sequences, with light high-pitched ornamentation, building to a much heavier climax. Other songs are more ambient and sample-based, driven by a pounding drum machine line; Roses For Her takes its time oscillating faint Fs and A♭s, before said drum machine propels it into sparse, ominous piano chords and bursts of distant guitars, climaxing with menacing dissonance and processed voices.

In 2004, the band fizzled out. They'd finished at Oxford a couple of years before, and three members had relocated to Brighton; their last show was towards the end of the year, in London. (Frustratingly, I first heard of them at around this time, from people lamenting their demise. Thus, I can't report first-hand on their live show, but I'm told they were great.) They had three Peel Sessions, on 17th June 2001, 31st October 2001, and 2nd January 2003, of which recordings are allegedly floating around somewhere.

My neighbour maintains that they're at their best when vocalist Emily Gray stops reading her goth teenager poetry and the band get on with the business of rocking out (which they do very effectively). He's got a point, but I reckon it's mostly because you wouldn't be able to hear her over the climaxes of the songs. I think the monologues add individuality and identity to the songs — which is often missing in similar bands' albums, whose pretentious wordy song titles feel like they were glued on at the last minute — without destroying perfectly good music with unnecessary vocal melodies.

Those who agree with my neighbour found hope in late 2004, when two members of the band re-coalesced to form Mesaplex, recorded a demo, and played a bunch of shows. Sadly, they seem to have fallen off the face of the Earth after a year or so. More recently, Ape Has Killed Ape! and Titus have emerged; the former produced superior music, while the latter seems to have stayed more active.


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