It was only a matter of time before the cultural needle began to waver around Idles, and there’s a lot of factors for why. The blame could easily be placed on some frankly militant marketing, placing them as the figureheads of the current renaissance of post-punk and doubling down on the generation-bridging aspect that they’ve ridden in a way that the scrutinous listener could have a field day poking holes in, but the band at the centre of the maelstrom aren’t absolved of guilt. They’re arguably entering the stage of their career that can only be described as the ‘Frank Turner-fication’ process, in which the views of their undoubtedly good intentions are overshadowed by a ham-fistedness (especially around the music) that can do them no favours. Thus, the lead-up to Ultra Mono can feel very similar to that of Turner’s No Man’s Land, in which the criticism of Idles themselves has informed preliminary opinions far more than any musical output. Regardless of where that criticism comes from though, it’s not like Idles are all that fussed by it; they practically spell it out on The Lover, and when Ultra Mono finds them going about their usual business, it feels defiant but also a bit myopic. They’re leaning a lot heavier into their Idles-isms this time around in their offbeat imagery and Joe Talbot’s motorik bellowing of refrains and repeated lines, and that can feel as though they’re trying to force the ‘comedy’ aspect of their music that used to come at lot more naturally, and subsequently pave over any cracks in the subject matter. It mightn’t be egregious but it’s certainly noticeable, and in the disjointed onomatopoeic shouts of War or the circular repetition of Reigns, the engagement is more surface-level and basic than might’ve been expected from Idles. It’s the sort of approach that works best in small doses or when more attention is funnelled into it; Mr. Motivator might be little more than a string of seemingly absurd references to celebrities, but there’s clearly been a lot of care in crafting how they might work or fit together. Similarly, the political angle on Model Village and Carcinogenic might be taking some broad shots towards the attitudes of white, racist, middle class communities and an unhealthy way of life that’s heaving under capitalism respectively, but there’s a sharpness and bite there regardless that finds Idles on far better footing. On the whole though, Ultra Mono doesn’t have the gnashing force that previous Idles albums could have, generally feeling more set in its ways and playing for an easy next step in its social commentary rather than anything that really goes for the jugular. Of course, the argument could and has been made that Idles have always done that (even if accusations of their ambitions always being performative doesn’t feel true), but this is one of those times where it’s easier to see where those viewpoints come from.
And to compound all of that, it’s pretty much business as usual basically on all fronts. The sound that Idles have embedded themselves in has become so ubiquitous lately that it doesn’t really need changing, but Ultra Mono once again finds itself not getting the most out of what it has. Kenny Beats offers production to Mr. Motivator while Jamie Cullum gives a piano intro to Kill Them With Kindness, but neither are given a definitive spot to shine, and though Jehnny Beth’s presence on Ne Touche Pas Moi feels justly deserved for the type of song it is, it would’ve been nice to see her role as more than just a glorified backing vocalist. Beyond that, Idles hold fast pretty much across the board, which is still a good thing. Theirs is a very forceful and roughshod sound, with the crunchy guitar tones from Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan having a snarl and swagger as Adam Devonshire’s bass weaves through them. It’s hard to accuse Idles of not having at least a familiarity with classic punk, and that rugged energy is channelled throughout Ultra Mono with a matte post-punk finish. Even on their customary slower moment A Hymn, there’s a real cavernous ring and rattle in how the darker side of the band’s sound is allowed to ferment, with the typically mechanical post-punk sound allowed to open up for a vibe that can feel vaguely industrial in spots. It’s a cool pivot for a style of song that they’ve had a bit of trouble with in the past, and only further reinforces how comfortably Idles’ sound seems to be solidifying in real time. In itself, that creates a lot of possibilities for maturation and growth, but from how it can be portrayed on Ultra Mono, they’re holding steady rather than moving forward. It’s a rather disappointing feeling for a band like Idles to veer into staid, semi-predictable territory, but that’s the impression that this album implies might be on the horizon. Hopefully that isn’t the case and Idles can become the exciting band that everyone was touting them as again, but with how quickly the discourse seems to be moving and how they seem to be pushing back with equal force, that might just have to stay as a hope for the time being.
For fans of: Fontaines D.C., Ought, Shame
‘Ultra Mono’ by Idles is out now on Partisan Records.
Lament was always going to be an important and challenging release for Touché Amoré, simply for what it was following on from. Stage Four has quickly become this band’s opus after all, one of the most gut-wrenching albums of 2016 chronicling the experiences of frontman Jeremy Bolm’s mother’s experiences battling and ultimately succumbing to cancer that’s only aged like a fine wine four years later. The band did release a reworked version of their debut …To The Beat Of A Dead Horse last year for its tenth anniversary, but Lament is their first proper attempt at trying to live up to the heights of Stage Four. Of course, if any band could do it, it would be Touché Amoré, who’ve been beloved within post-hardcore and emotional hardcore since inception and now unquestionably have the level of refinement to deliver something special. And yet, for Lament to be as near-perfect of a follow-up to Stage Four as it is can still catch some off guard, primarily because it continues the red-raw emotional throughline with barely a single beat missed. Here, Bolm’s thought processes are a lot more scattered and lost, flitting between his own grief, blistering examinations of himself and the world around him, and trying to dig out the kernel of hope lost among it all, told with an honesty that’s become such a key trait of Touché Amoré’s sound. But also among all that is a sense of tension and pressure, and that’s constantly bubbling beneath the surface in a way that makes the writing on Lament feel a lot more vital and consequently nervous, the piling on of emotions that fuels Bolm’s self-doubt on Feign and the awareness of the spectres of death that vicariously follow him from those who view him as a pillar of strength on I’ll Be Your Host. By the time A Forecast closes the album – the self-described update on Bolm’s life with the frank lyrical unravelling of a band like The Wonder Years or Spanish Love Songs – it feels like it comes from a place of necessity, where the burdens of his own mind and the world around him have to be shed in whatever way possible, regardless of how inelegant that may be.
So in terms of depth and detail, Touché Amoré have no problems in matching up to their usual standard, and once again, the bleak, bleary-eyed instrumentation it’s paired with does so much to wring as much rigour out of it all as possible. The production style is immaculate for achieving that sort of thing, in how it pulls from creaking emo tones and a muted, sepia colour palette to achieve a similar sort of effect to Manchester Orchestra or the last couple of Thrice albums; the former’s frontman Andy Hull even shows up for the bridge on Limelight and he sounds phenomenal. But where Touché Amoré go further is in how brightly their intent burns, and how there’s such a tangible punk spirit that shines through almost constantly. It’s right from the beginning too, with the thrashing drums and distinctively melancholy but bracing guitars on Come Heroine, which will morph into the woozy blurs of atmosphere amid the power on the title track and Exit Row, and even what almost feels like an attempt at pop-punk on Reminders, albeit heavily altered to fit the Touché Amoré style. Indeed, Lament as an entire album is firmly anchored to that style, and for as recognisably stable as it is, not once does it come close to losing vitality or sounding like anything less than an utter triumph. Excellent performances across the board only keep that bar notched up higher (especially from Bolm who’s unquestionably one of the most impassioned and direct screamers in the game), to the point where it’s genuinely difficult to see where Touché Amoré can go next. This feels like a band at the top of their game coming off the back of an album that offered that exact same reaction, both being a testament to how rich the well of creativity within this band, and how much of an unstoppable force within hardcore – and music in general – they actually are.
For fans of: Defeater, La Dispute, Thrice
‘Lament’ by Touché Amoré is released on 9th October on Epitaph Records.
George Miller’s creative journey to the Joji persona is well-known at this point, to where the evolution from provocative YouTuber Filthy Frank to comedy trap musician Pink Guy and finally to the more sophisticated alt-R&B of his current guise doesn’t surprise like it once did. What does surprise a bit more is how well he’s been able to work the lane he’s in, if only in bits and pieces. His debut Ballads 1 might have been uneven, but propping up a truly terrific song like Slow Dancing In The Dark to become a real hit showed an artistic canniness that, particularly for an artist like him in a climate where TikTok is such a crucial force, could be leveraged for real excellence going forward. If that’s the case though, Nectar is taking its sweet time getting there, once again displaying some immense highs juxtaposed with a lack of energy and verve that can make an almost hour-long runtime begin to crawl. The pace isn’t an issue in itself either, particularly as Miller has such a good ear for making the most out of slow-burning songs; opener Ew brings forward an opulence in its string sections that’s still kept restrained and tasteful, and in the stunning, blues-tinged guitar solo of Run and the floaty yet dense R&B clouds of Sanctuary, they’re the sort of perfectly encapsulated experiments that have genuinely chart-bothering capabilities if cultivated in the right way. The problem is that they serve as the majority of Nectar’s musical epicentre that has that potential, and while the aesthetic reasons for opting towards the subdued R&B sound can be apparant, it just makes this album feel so blasé and uneventful. Particularly in the second half, the momentum is really cut to slivers, and there’s a lack of defined hook-writing that makes it feel even more drained.
It’s a shame too, because the seed of something with a lot of smouldering atmosphere that could’ve been potentially gripping is here. The production, pretty much across the board, deserves a lot of praise, keeping the tasteful, languid progressions established early on and augmenting them with a more solidified beat and reverb. Sonically, it has the lo-fi sensibilities of a SoundCloud project – most notably when it goes for more minimalism like on Like You Do or jittery, trip-hop-esque progressions like NITROUS and Mr. Hollywood – but with some more lavish production quality that feels bigger and more complete on the whole, especially when that’s handed to Diplo on Daylight, probably the most unflinchingly poppy cut here. It all fits well for the sort of singer that Miller is; he’s naturally not much of an electrifying presence (and when he goes down into a mumbly lower register, it gets a bit too close to the lo-fi end for comfort), but he can sell this sort of aching, tortured emotion well, even if it can’t really be stretched across the entire album without showing some wear and tear. Fundamentally, there is a workable core for this sort of R&B on Nectar, but the lack of considerable motion or ear-catching moments can kneecap it rather severely; when one of the few moments of note in a fairly lengthy stretch of songs comes from Pretty Boy, a swamped-out collaboration with Lil Yachty that feels like it belongs on a different album entirely, that doesn’t work in its favour. It’s probably something that those more heavily invested in Joji and similarly downbeat, Internet-driven artists will be able to look past, but for everyone else, the strength of the best cuts isn’t close to being indicative of the whole thing, and this could potentially be fantastic if it was.
For fans of: Rich Brian, Jaden, Saba
‘Nectar’ by Joji is out now on 88rising.
When I Die, Will I Get Better?
The overriding feeling when it comes to Svalbard’s newest album is relief. Following the allegations made towards Holy Roar founder Alex Fitzpatrick that saw a mass exodus of bands from its roster and the label effectively implode in real time, one piece of the fallout was the albums slated for release that had been left in limbo. And as the soonest to come out, Svalbard’s third full-length was the one most up in the air, until saved by an eleventh hour move by Church Road Records to release it as intended. But here’s the thing – even where separated from those circumstances, When I Die, Will I Get Better? is a triumphant release from a band whose catalogue comprises exclusively of that, blending hardcore righteousness with the frigid expanse of black-metal in a blend that never gets old or loses its luster. Just on the very first track Open Wound, Svalbard tap into a richness and a blasting intensity that could only come from both sides of their sound balancing with each other, as the blasts of guitars and perfectly-timed tempo changes are accentuated by glorious atmospheric sections and a sense of drama that few bands in this lane can capture so expertly. There’s an inherently cinematic to their sound that material that makes it so compelling, in production that’s deeply layered and intelligently crafted to accentuate the size of it all, and vocal performances from Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan that have an electrifying sharpness and intensity, but know exactly when to drop into ethereal and vulnerable like on Listen To Someone. In terms of composition, When I Die… is just wonderful from start to finish, the sort of album that constantly reveals more and more pockets of detail with each listen, especially with Mark Lilley’s drumming that has such a deft fluidity on a track like The Currency Of Beauty and just how clean its transition into blastbeats is. Perhaps Alex Heffernan’s bass could be given a bit more prominence, but that’s generally a nitpick when Svalbard have such a full and potent command of their sound.
Then again, Svalbard’s particular sound is always great, and it’s been a key factor in establishing them as such an integral presence within UK hardcore. When I Die… is no different either, but it’s the way that Svalbard continually manage to bolster that with real insight and passion, and an anger that comes with such perfect timing and delivery. A lot of that is down to Cherry and Phelan as vocalists, with a vocal style that’s ideal for articulating the frustration that derives from depression, in well-meaning but hollow platitudes that are thrown out by those who think that’s enough on Listen To Someone, and in the desire to try to break through and self-mend, if only for the sake of others who don’t fully understand the internal turmoil on Silent Restraint. Then there’s a lot of the commentary that feels just as vicious, towards cultures of victim-blaming and objectification on What Was She Wearing? and The Currency Of Beauty that burn with real, tangible rage, but also bring in the melancholy from Svalbard’s sound at how those practices really don’t seem to be going away. The true highlight, though, comes in Click Bait, where Cherry takes aim at media outlets looking to push for representation, but will also use her out-of-context quotes in headlines to draw clicks, and subsequently drum up even more division from those who won’t even bother to read the whole thing. It’s a nuanced portrayal that’s very rarely seen in music, heavier or otherwise, and while that’s not really a surprise coming from Svalbard – they’ve got a notably poetic and literate writing style that always yields good results – something framed at this distinct angle really is something that only they tend to do. That’s unquestionably a good thing, mind, and it only makes an already unique and vital band within hardcore feel even more so. And honestly, there’s very little to complain about when the instrumentation and production is excellent, and the writing and execution can match it for stark intensity blow for blow. In no uncertain terms, Svalbard are one of the UK’s premier bands for thoughtful and visceral heavy music, and long may it stay that way.
For fans of: Oathbreaker, Pariso, Brotherhood Of The Lake
‘When I Die, Will I Get Better?’ by Svalbard is out now on Church Road Records.
Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones
Look, The Neighbourhood have been pretty much devoid of stock since Sweater Weather, and when ‘peaking early’ in this case refers to a singular song, that in itself doesn’t foster much hope. Then there’s the fact that their Tumblr-baiting ‘indie’-pop has never been all that good in its belief that drowning itself in layer upon layer of airy synths is tantamount to moodiness or atmosphere, leaving The Neighbourhood to lamely limp by with a career that, at this stage, is going nowhere. It’s why any excitement around Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones has been displayed by precisely no one, and that’s not exactly for no reason given that The Neighbourhood are just as unwhelming as they’ve always been. Here, frontman Jesse Rutherford is taking up the role of his Ziggy Stardust alter ego Chip Chrome, a decision that really makes no difference when this is the same shallow, uninspired indie-pop patter that The Neighbourhood always pump out. If anything, it’s probably a good benchmark for how underdeveloped The Neighbourhood’s writing style actually is; the most interesting line comes on BooHoo with “Call her Alexander ‘cause I treat her like my queen”, in itself just barely squeaking through its scansion and feeling like a distinct outlier from how flavourless the writing on this album is. It makes for an album that effectively evaporates on impact, devoid of memorability and struggling to muster something up that could be even remotely interesting.
The same complaints could be made about the instrumentation too, where The Neighbourhood seem outright unable to lock into any sort of consistent groove or forward motion. There’s a thinness to these songs that doesn’t help either, and it makes them feel remarkably fragile under the weightless production. There’s an okay skip to Lost In Translation (after the bizarre Motown opening that’s not blended well at all, that is), but this album otherwise plods to a chronic degree, and the inability it has to actually move itself is genuinely staggering. It’s not even in the case of something like Tobacco Sunburst where its country-inspired jangle can actually have a bit of prettiness to it, but rather in the cheapened indie-pop whiffs of Pretty Boy or Silver Lining where the crutch of atmosphere still feels horrendously abused, or Hell Or High Water which sounds like SpongeBob SquarePants music at multiple points – no, really. And amid all of that is Rutherford’s brittle drawl that’s just as nonexistent as everything else on this album. It really is a total nonentity of a release, and the fact it attempts to just coast on by rather than actually having a cogent game plan for itself feels emblematic of The Neighbourhood’s completely unearned sense of self-importance. They aren’t the sort of band who can get away with not trying, and the fact that this album is almost guaranteed to do nothing for them is as strong an indictment as this non-starter of an album deserves.
For fans of: Wallows, Dayglow, flor
‘Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones’ by The Neighbourhood is out now on Columbia Records.
Amaranthe have somehow become a deceptively hard band to make something of. Their fusion of power-metal, melodeath and trance has seen a whole crop of albums turn out as unbalanced and over-the-top cheesy as they come, but there’s always something there that keeps drawing you back regardless. That might be the only reason that Amaranthe have now made it to a sixth album with Manifest; they’ve not changed much despite replacing one of their three vocalists in 2017, but theirs is a sound whose frankly ludicrous potential for catchiness and hookwork makes it so that isn’t really a necessity. Then again, it’s not a model that’s built to last when it’s already so strained, and while Manifest is about on the same level as most of Amaranthe’s work – as in, generally middling with some wild peaks – it really is an example of the cracks beginning to show. For one, the dense, full-force production tactic can only do so much, and it does feel as though they’re running out of ways to mix pummeling, low-end guitars and slicing synths in a way that’s novel or interesting. Even beyond that, they’ve got archetypes of songs that rarely feel elevated or engaged with past having them there; the gauzy ballad Crystalline and the heavier BOOM! stand out in a vacuum, but it’s not a new trick for Amaranthe themselves, and when they’re audibly scraping together some form of inspiration (or in the case of the latter and its genuinely awful breakdown, outwardly spitting in the face of it), it can really make this album feel like it’s going through the motions.
That’s, of course, because it is, but there’s also a certain amount of admiration towards Amaranthe for diving into it so brazenly. They clearly aren’t making a secret of how compact their range of ideas runs, and the fact that, at almost every moment, they’re trying to squeeze every drop of potential from what they have is what can make Amaranthe an enjoyable band to listen to. They definitely peak early in that regard with Fearless, the sort of thudding, blindingly glossy club-metal that this band can have an excessive amount of fun with, but even the fact that Amaranthe’s intentions are so overblown has a lot to like about it. Undoubtedly Manifest slots into the ‘less is more’ bracket of power-metal in terms of thematic weight – it’s a lot of big, broad songs about big, broad things and is generally left at that – but Amaranthe can make it work, particularly with a clean vocal team of Elize Ryd and Nils Molin who, once again, have the gusto and Eurovision-friendly chemistry that can enormously punch up a chorus if nothing else. As for Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson‘s screams, he does still seem like the weak link, not bringing as much to the dynamic and regularly feeling consigned to the back even when he’s there. It ultimately feels like the case where Amaranthe don’t know how to suitably use all the elements they’ve got, and when the end product is effectively more of the same down to an almost microscopic degree, it’s almost as if they don’t want to. Sure, there’s the fun and the flash to be swept up in, but Amaranthe are six albums deep now, and they’ve barely budged in inch across any of them, both for good and for ill. There’s bound to be some for whom that hardly seems like a complaint, but more than most, Manifest appears to be presenting itself with the cracks widening, and the band themselves are just letting it happen.
For fans of: Dead By April, Sonic Syndicate, Beyond The Black
‘Manifest’ by Amaranthe is released on 2nd October on Nuclear Blast Records.
I Won’t Fade On You
It’s unfortunate that Stay Inside stayed generally hidden in 2018, because it was easily enough to let Elder Brother rise above their side-project grounding. It wasn’t a million miles away from what Daybreaker’s Daniel Rose and The Story So Far’s Kevin Geyer would produce in their main bands (particularly in the latter’s case on Proper Dose that same year), but it was the sort of rich, earthy emo that’s always an easy sell, especially when it’s delivered with as much passion and conviction as that album was. There’s definitely been a throughline carried over to I Won’t Fade On You as well, albeit with an execution that’s a bit less compelling overall. It’s lighter and more pliable in its overall sound, incorporating slinkier indie and pop elements for what’s a generally more subdued and low-key experience that’s lacking a few killer moments to match up to its predecessor. That’s not to say it isn’t good though; on the contrary, Elder Brother are able to demonstrate how deeply their command of mood really runs, whether that’s in the beautiful, hushed title track, the reverb-soaked jangles of Halloween and OK, Alright, and the rubbery soft-pop pivots of I Get So Tired Of You and The Champion Of The East Bay. There’s definitely a greater emphasis on vibe and the softer, chilled glossiness that this sound is so comfortable with sinking into, and even without the greater thrust of their past releases, Elder Brother still capture a distinctly pleasant and intoxicating mood, both in how well-crafted their sound is and with the cleaner finish that Jack Shirley’s production gives them.
As such, the stakes do feel a little lower on I Won’t Fade On You, but that’s unequivocally by design. It’s a lighter album in tone as well as sound, coloured by memories of nostalgic loves and losses, and how those connections may never actually disappear, despite what may be seen of them in the moment. That holds extra value thanks to how much Evan Garcia-Renart’s keyboard work influences the sound of the album, and how his inclusion came from reuniting with Rose after years apart, but Rose himself does a lot of heavy lifting as a vocalist to withhold those themes and bring them together. His voice has a breathiness and understated quality to fit into the hazy collage of memories that informs the album’s overall direction, not only contributing to the atmosphere but shaping it into a more solid and distinct form. It’s hard to say he really stands out here – or that any singular element does on this album, for the record – but he’s one contributing factor in an overall package that’s almost unshakably solid from front to back. It’s not as striking as its predecessor was, but I Won’t Fade On You feels like an earned coda that accomplishes everything it sets out to. It’s yet another example of Elder Brother ascending beyond limited side-project expectations and delivering something that holds up as its own thing, even going so far as to try and carve out a niche for itself while it’s at it. That’s rare to see, and the fact it’s done so well here deserves to be celebrated.
For fans of: The Front Bottoms, Save Face, Jetty Bones
‘I Won’t Fade On You’ by Elder Brother is released on 2nd October on Pure Noise Records.
The Jaded Hearts Club
You’ve Always Been Here
For anyone unsure about what this is, The Jaded Hearts Club can optimistically be described as the Avengers of B-tier 2000s indie. They’ve got a couple of big names onboard in Muse’s Matt Bellamy on bass and Blur’s Graham Coxon on guitar (not to mention occasional guest spots by the rest of Muse and even Paul McCartney), but the central cast of Miles Kane and Jet’s Nic Cester on co-vocals and The Zutons’ Sean Payne on drums more definitively establishes the level they’re looking to pull from. It’s very little surprise that this isn’t really a project looking to break its bounds, then; they released a live album as a charity bundle in January, and even this, their first studio release, is little more than an album of soul and oldies covers. It goes without saying that this isn’t a particularly taxing album then, but for what it is and the little nutritional value it holds, this is generally fine. It basically amounts to rocked-up covers of classic, very well-known songs a lot of the time, and the generally low stakes of The Jaded Hearts Club has them tackling the sort of musical staples that might begin to sway into redundancy. There really isn’t any need for more versions of Have Love Will Travel or I Put A Spell On You, and Matt Bellamy’s spindly vocal delivery that feels uncomfortably close makes for the second unwanted cover of Fever this year (even if it is better than Danzig’s). At the same time though, there’s a sweltering, rollicking energy to This Love Starved Heart Of Mine (It’s Killing Me) and Why When The Love Is Gone that indicates there’s some fun being had, and the horns added into Reach Out (I’ll Be There) feel like a callback to the original’s soulful roots that actually blends quite well with a rougher classic rock adaptation.
There’s definitely a looseness to this album that distinctly falls into that side-project vein, and that does convey something a bit lighter and less serious coming from this album. The sound in itself is nothing to write home about – it takes a lot of classic rock tones and pairs them with the indie and garage-rock that come naturally to these musicians, a decision that makes sense without yielding a lot of terrific results – but there isn’t the stiffness or self-serious undertones that can make albums of this sound such a drag. Of all people, Nic Cester probably stands out the most with his hoarse howl that sets up a good deal of the propulsive momentum; by comparison, Miles Kane’s reedier vocals aren’t terrible, but the difference in the force they bring to these songs is definitely noticeable. What’s more, there’s a brisk pace to this album that’s appreciated, with no moment dwelled on for too long while still being anchored in the rock-solid compositions of the originals. Still, it’s not as though The Jaded Hearts Club are providing the sort of alternatives that will inevitably surpass their originals, nor are they putting so unique a spin on them that they’ll be worth keeping around. This is about as quintessential as a loose venture comes, all the way down to how its half-life seems deliberately cut back to highlight that there really isn’t much going on here beyond musicians having a good time. That in itself is a noble goal, and it’s good to have around as a curio, but there’s a chance that many will see the names attached and go into You’ve Always Been Here expecting a lot more than they’ll actually get. In reality, this Avengers outing is more of an Age Of Ultron than an Endgame.
For fans of: The Last Shadow Puppets, Beady Eye, The Libertines
‘You’ve Always Been Here’ by The Jaded Hearts Club is released on 2nd October on Helium-3.
snake eyes frontman Jim Heffy has described this debut EP as “the bare bones of the band”, and that can have just as many negative connotations as positive. At best, it helps the intrinsic scrappiness of their garage-punk to come out more readily, but there’s also the chance of paving the way towards a difficult run ahead if those bare bones feel too underdeveloped. As for skeletons itself, it does feel like a debut in that snake eyes are yet to forge a path for themselves that’s freed from their influences, but there’s a bright-eyed precociousness here that does a good job at making up for it. Tracks like don’t worry and wishbone encapsulate the bashed-out, sub-two-minutes blasts of garage-punk that the band have clearly immersed themselves in, blown-out production and all, while the title track and bugged out are a fair bit slower and grungier for a bit of sonic diversity. Admittedly they aren’t quite as compelling, but the hardscrabble approach that snake eyes are going for definitely pays dividends in the right places. Sonically this couldn’t feel more DIY, with Heffy’s guitars and Nicole Gill’s bass having the chunky, deliberately imperfect proportions that align really solidly with Thomas Coe-Brooker’s drumming.
From a foundational standpoint, there’s a lot about snake eyes that connects right from the start, but there’s definitely a bit of spice lacking on the whole that they could do with to push them over the top. The writing itself can come into fire here, less for the actual topics themselves (don’t worry almost certainly stakes a claim for being the only song about motherly ladies at work), and more for how snake eyes are yet to put their own distinct spin on the more grounded, everyman nature of it all. Right now, there isn’t a lot to earmark these songs as defiantly snake eyes songs, and the scruffy, scuzzy production doesn’t help in how much of a commonality amongst the DIY scene it can be. In other words, snake eyes are falling perfectly in line within the scene they want to be in, and for now, it’s hard to begrudge them of that too heavily. This is their debut after all, and what it achieves already is a pretty significant step in terms of the band’s overall goal and how well they can achieve it. Right now then, the next aim to work towards is finding something of their own and cultivating it, because that’s what the most important part of snake eyes’ will depend on.
For fans of: The Computers, Single Mothers, Bad Nerves
‘skeletons’ by snake eyes is released on 9th October on Failure By Design Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall