ALBUM REVIEW: Other Half – ‘Soft Action’

Artwork for Other Half’s ‘Soft Action’ - a black and white image of a tattered, indeterminate object close up

In the very best rock trios, each player brings a charismatic role to the barrage of noise. Nirvana, Green Day, Shellac: they complement guitar melodies with bass rumbles and off-piste meandering. The drums should hit hard. DIY-punk basics are a strangely hard thing to distil and master, but Norwich based three piece Other Half seem to have a deft touch at the aforementioned stuff, throwing in comments about town ennui, everyday struggles, and some meta descriptions about the frustrations of writing a second record too.

Now signed to Big Scary Monsters, Cal, Soapy and Alfie have drawn a keen following for their own brand of crunchy rock that shares blood with Britain’s alt-rock titans and cult heroes. Across a storming 14 tracks on Soft Action are old school Biffy screams and panic chords, Jamie Lenman’s hooks, HECK’s ballistic attitude and Gnarwolves’ sad odes to partying, all captured in a refreshing modern context. Building on their respectable debut Big Twenty, Other Half have truly upped the ante. Mood! Dissonance! Heaviness! Vocal duels! And above all, more varied, intelligent songcraft.

A note-to-self informed the band to write shorter, faster songs, made no more evident than the 40-second opener Like A Dog which assuredly gnashes at you like a yappy pup targeting a postman. Frenetic fret work and harmonics further unleash a sneering contempt for coked-up yobs on the excellent Jollies With the Boys, before straight laced rocker Slab Thick details a three-bears allegory set at a house party and demonstrates the band stepping outside their usual gnarlier comfort zone, which pays off very well indeed.

There’s a whole collection of exciting whippersnapper tunes that follow in succession; Alfie’s drum parts provide a smashing backbone for Soapy and Cal’s vocal and instrumental interplay. Losing the Whip’s atonal chords and sardonic wit signal some Every Time I Die influence. All Bets Are Off hinges on bass and drum cut-outs to exemplify the ominous melodies that ring out with worrying intent. The one minute Doom Logo is, instead, a paired back interlude, still with a crunchy amp delivery that’s a far throw from an acoustic ballad.

Soft Action’s endearing quality is a song’s course shifting at the drop of a hat while returning the attention to familiar centrepieces. Who’s Got Guts has fabulous backing ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ to elevate it’s ascending chorus, all tuneful despite the jarring, janky riffage and drumhead tinkling that makes up its later stages. Every Future is hauntingly subtle through its droll delivery. Cal and Soapy channel the best days of Frank Black and Kim Deal here in a standout slowed track that still manages to aggressively bite and leave teeth marks. That ominous glow continues throughout the intense build up of Planetary Feeling and the trio close out proceedings in If You Write The Way You Talk, a 5-minute burner that layers each element out in a delectable downbeat spread.

Where UK music has always found its best grounding in the realms of twee folk, mainstream indie chart-toppers or the heavier echelons, there’s always been a midplace to accommodate the best of everything. It’s an area where Other Half set up shop, and sell their wares of mathy snarly punk to best capture the sardonic spirit that underpins the country’s underground scenes. With their idiosyncratic sound better formulated on this sophomore release, Other Half should grab attention for their noisy observations more than ever.

For fans of: PUP, Reuben, Lower Than Atlantis

‘Soft Action’ by Other Half is released on 2nd December on Big Scary Monsters.

Words by Elliot Burr

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