‘Rapscallion’: The Murlocs most ambitious and forward-thinking work to date

Subscribe to Forte Magazine


‘Rapscallion’: The Murlocs most ambitious and forward-thinking work to date

The Murlocs. Photo credit Izzie Austin
Words by Alex Callan

The Melbourne 60’s tinged psych-rock punks have released their brand new studio album 'Rapscallion' - a 12-track coming-of-age novel in an album form.

Ever since it was announced that The Murlocs guitarist Callum Shortal was handling the majority of writing duties for Rapscallion, it’s been a release that many have patiently looked forward to. With Shortal known for his affinity to stoner and doom rock, as well as doubling up as a guitarist in Orb, it felt evident from the outset that it was going to debut a different sound for the Melbourne-based outfit.

Although, it remained unknown just how far it would stray from the group’s blues roots.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

From the get-go, there is much more bravado, with ‘Subsidiarystanding out as being much heavier than the group’s pre-existing catalog. Backed by a newfound punchiness to their rhythms and unrelenting drum fills from Matt Blach, Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s voice soars with a fluent Rock ‘n’ Roll swagger that doesn’t cease throughout the course of the release. 

‘Bellarine Ballerina’ sees Kenny-Smith bouncing his vocal cadence with impressive inflections as the song naturally strays from high-pitched choruses to a psychedelic drone, matching the discordant nature of its shoegazey final moments.

‘Living Under A Rock’ channels angular rhythms akin to Elvis Costello’s Pump It Up, whilst ‘Farewell To Clemency’ is dominated by Cook Craig’s basslines and the powerful addition of harmonica.

With Rapscallion telling the story of a teenager who escapes the confines of parental restriction to travel to the city on his own, it makes a lot of sense that many moments see the group channelling darker energies or heavier moments than fans are used to, in particular when it comes to the albums sinister middle point. 

With the narrative depicting the lead protagonist having left home with a head full of naivety in ‘Compos Mentis’ and his grandiose ideas for his future in ‘The Royal Vagabond’, ‘Virgin Criminal’ takes a darker turn into the underbelly of the city. In a moment that turns the character from a protagonist to an antagonist, he commits an armed robbery that results in a shopkeeper’s death, leading the character to believe he is “invincible.” It presents an interesting dichotomy; one second you’re rooting for the youthful trailblazer, and the next you’re questioning their humility. 

Emphasising the character’s downward spiral, Murl continues to increase the intensity whilst also furthering the story, with songs like ‘Wickr Man’ utilising guitar scales, rapid synths and a grumbled accentuation in Kenny-Smith’s vocals that evoke staggered tension akin to the cult-followed ‘Captain Beefheart’. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by @themurlocs

To date, The Murlocs have never released a sub-par album and if Rapscallion is anything to go by, it doesn’t seem like it’s in their trajectory, with the group’s seventh full-length proving to be their most ambitious and forward-thinking work to date. An absolute triumph for the once Bellarine-based group.

Rapscallion is out now. Listen to it here