REVIEW ROUND-UP: Heart Attack Man, The Deadnotes, UgLi

Artwork for Heart Attack Man’s ‘Freak Of Nature’ - a two-headed dog in a spiked collar barking

Heart Attack Man

Freak Of Nature

Remember the Fake Blood era of Heart Attack Man? When they were really committed to the image of being this really edgy, controversial band? Obviously keeping that up for an entire career wasn’t a viable option, but it was kinda fun while it lasted, if only to differentiate them from most of what emo and DIY punk was doing at the time. By comparison, Freak Of Nature has been nowhere near as defined by anything like that; this is a much more straightforward take on Heart Attack Man, as in striving for similar angst sans the artifice around it. And if that sounds to you like removing something without a replacement part of equal magnitude, you’d pretty much be right.

Might as well lead off with that then, as Freak Of Nature doesn’t quite have the volatility you’d want from an album built around its own immolation and the stray bullets firing around it. The humbling of Heart Attack Man on the presentation front pulls a lot back, including the more visceral leanings that would be useful when the intent hasn’t shifted all that much. It’s no surprise, then, that the best songs do in fact turn to a louder, brasher punk sound, like the title track or C4 which balance genuine teeth with some excellent melodic intent. But then there’s the slacker-rock stylings of Late To The Orgy and God Called Off Today as a sad-sack downgrade, or Stick Up whose self-destructiveness wrapped in a bank robbery narrative ends up bizarrely underpowered. Decisions like that ultimately don’t work the best for Heart Attack Man, or more accurately, the themes they’re striving to instill.

Because really, the composite parts of Freak Of Nature are perfectly fine as they are. There’s an adeptness to a gradual shift towards an emo / pop-punk style that Heart Attack Man fit well, as songs like Like A Kennedy and 9 On Your Bedside show off through some genuinely massive hooks. Divorced from any expectations of what Heart Attack Man should be, it’s the sort of thing that its scene would give real legs on aesthetic merit alone. The production is sharp without being overly slick, and knows the right buttons to push to get its low-key, indie-influenced moments in place. Meanwhile, frontman Eric Egan can hit the right notes of dejection, pity and snarl when it’s needed, aided by a brisk pace that keeps everything running at a smooth, satisfying rate.

But be honest—does that sound like a Heart Attack Man album to you? The fundamentals do, but where they’ve always pushed on those a bit more than most, Freak Of Nature doesn’t tend to go as far, and you can absolutely feel it. It’s still alright, insofar as Heart Attack Man’s experience has put a high floor underneath them which this is testament to, but the critical personality that made them so eye-catching to begin with has diminished a lot this time around. In any case, this ‘freak of nature’ winds up feeling just pretty ordinary.

For fans of: Prince Daddy & The Hyena, Mom Jeans., Oso Oso

‘Freak Of Nature’ by Heart Attack Man is released on 26th May.

Artwork for The Deadnotes’ ‘Forever Outsider’ - an image in a star border of two people being pushed over

The Deadnotes

Forever Outsider

It’s often interesting to see exactly what cues certain bands will choose to build on going forward. For The Deadnotes, their 2020 album Courage felt as though it left a wide open plain for them to explore, largely through expansive alt-rock not too far removed from what was coming from the UK the decade prior. Put on Forever Outsider though, and you’re greeted with a title track decked out in Britpop swirls and strings-and-choir opulence, more akin to a Robbie Williams instrumental than anything else. Other than their penchant for melody, this is effectively The Deadnotes building themselves from the ground up, and it might be the best decision they could’ve made.

Not to say they weren’t good before, but in just four tracks, Forever Outsider is able to do a lot more, and establish artistic identity far easier. The Britpop likeness is the main one, but hints of more all-purpose alt-rock and pop-rock still abound, seeing as the primary objective seems to be crafting the most inescapable, torte-rich progressions possible. The title track is really the best indication of what to expect on that front—a very grand, maximalist sound woven together by colour and light, and boasting a density that’s never typically been present with The Deadnotes before. It can hem in some of the variety (you’re likely to notice similarities in pace and general feel), but it’s executed well enough that doesn’t detract from the experience.

If anything, it’s part of what makes the EP one of The Deadtones’ more engaging listens. The enveloping sound does a lot of heavy lifting, even among Darius Lohmüller’s vocals that are rested a bit too far forward at times. He’s not a bad singer at all—the particular European shape his voice takes is indeed pleasant to have—but you’d rather focus on what’s going on elsewhere when it’s as dense and full of threads to follow as it is. It’s compounded by lyrics on the mind and being an outsider that can feel a little limited, and just a general disconnect when it comes to placing those front and centre in the best possible fashion. There’s an artist called Shitney Beers who features on the song A Glade Inside The Vines, and they’re way more inconsequential than anyone with that name should ever be.

But on this kind of soft reboot, these things happen. There’s already a lot going on with The Deadnotes that’s considerably fresher than before, where the most attention is rightfully deserved. It’s a strong springboard really, as they head in a direction that’s both musically satisfying and fulfilling, without sacrificing the ironclad melodic nous that helped them come up in the first place. Maybe this really is the first new step towards something great for The Deadnotes; if it were, it’d be hard to object.

For fans of: Jimmy Eat World, Oasis, Deaf Havana

‘Forever Outsider’ by The Deadnotes is released on 26th May on 22Lives Records.

Artwork for UgLi’s ‘girldick.’ - a closeup of a figure’s crotch wearing orange leopard-print underwear



Well, that’s definitely a…unique title for your EP, isn’t it? To be fair, it’s not exactly out of character from a band whose previous album was named simply FUCK, but UgLi aren’t quite the provocateurs that signs might point to. They’re more tied to the DIY grunge scene and its usual trappings, with the caveat that there’s less of an emo tilt to it, and more of the raw lack of refinement emblematic of a band really in that space unmandated by label confines.

The band name seems to be more a formality than anything, then. You can certainly call something loud and lacking in filter ‘ugly’, but girldick. isn’t quite that either. It’s honestly quite a pleasant sampler of the seeds its creators have sown in grunge, among the sludge-wading riffs and loud-soft dynamics, and Dylyn Durante’s very unique voice that bears just the right amount of Billy Corgan-esque sharpness to it. She really feels like the beating heart of this band, especially in an open lyrical canvas that can be rather starkly gripping when it wants to. Even if it does peak at the very beginning with spiro., hearing her howl out a line like “Do I look dainty yet? / Do I look femme?” puts some strong emphasis on UgLi’s own reality and humanity.

So yeah, very DIY in intent, and made very clear that UgLi are extremely competent when it comes to really eking out some power from that. They aren’t shaking up the grunge ideals much but they’re presented well here, in the lighter ripples of guitar that get blown asunder for a quaking low end on relic. and crybabi., or the fat groove and swing that informs so much of taste.. If you want to nitpick, it’s a shame that the punkish urgency of spiro. doesn’t come back in the same capacity, but that’s hardly worth stressing over. Particularly when the melodic drive is so sturdy and present throughout, UgLi have enough to swing a win regardless.

Honestly—and without sounding backhanded here—it’s more or less exactly what you’d expect. There’s the same cool that bands this ground-level tend to exude, paired with genre proficiency that’s definitely still finding its feet, but isn’t drowning and spluttering in the quagmire either. Instead, UgLi feel very solidly aware of where they are, and that shows all across girldick., an EP whose title shouldn’t put you off from exploring further. It might be unfortunate to have to tell your friends to “listen to UgLi’s girldick.”, but it’s also, like, the lowest barrier to entry ever.

For fans of: Pixies, Momma, The Breeders

‘girldick.’ by UgLi is released on 26th May.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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