Review: Filthy Boy – Smile That Won’t Go Down

★★★★☆
Four Stars

Right now, Peckham seems to be making a concerted effort to shed its sheepskin-wearing, chandelier-dropping reputation with a cluster of emerging artists. Hot on the heels of downtempo electro-whiz kid Deptford Goth, here’s Filthy Boy, whose debut LP Smile That Won’t Go Down dropped last week.

Filthy Boy’s shtick is an endearing brand of brooding post-punk which dwells on the sleazier side of growing up in one of London’s less glamorous neighbourhoods. While the anti-romantic vibe is undoubtedly a well-mined topic in rock music, Smile’s collection of sordid little ballads are performed with a panache that sit comfortably alongside, say, Franz Ferdinand’s first two albums, or even Nick Cave’s early solo stuff. ‘Waiting on the Doorstep’ is a window into an over-accommodating lover’s exclusion from his girlfriend’s lascivious sex-parties (“Don’t mind me fellas! / Here if you need anything!”), while ‘Jimmy Jammies’ is a hilarious romp through an older man’s ham-fisted seduction technique.

In each giddily carnivalesque vignette, frontman Paraic Morrissey’s drawled vocals carousel around dissonant, Joy Division-style guitars. Morrissey has a knack for a good line befitting a man burdened with a surname such as his; yet the wit in his turn of phrase lies closer to Last Shadow Puppets-era Alex Turner than to his namesake Stephen: “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re thinking”, he snarls on ‘Naughty Corner’, not long after crooning “No matter how hard you try / You’ll still have my pupils dilated in size” on album opener ‘In The Name Of’. Best of all, though, is the menacing tone he takes on ‘Charm of the Dangerous Minx’ as his alter-ego salivates over a childlike lover “with spaghetti-hoop stains on her T-shirt” who’ll “thumb-suck her way around you”.

But all those name-checked influences are indicative of the fact that Filthy Boy struggle to be more than the sum of their parts; the lack of innovation in Smile’s rattling guitar-jabbing leaves the band’s sound feeling derivative, and rightly so. If you can get past that, however, the lyrical quality of the band’s songwriting richly rewards repeated listening.