EDIT: Everyone who liked my review: @rippingrecords on Instagram has blatantly STOLEN this review (https://www.instagram.com/p/B42pgrdB2pL/).
I spend a lot of effort on this review. Report him as Spam if you need. :)
And here we see AOTY stans riot. Everyone's favorite shoegaze bitches are back with their version of a punk record.
You already know how this goes. It's Have a Nice Life! Creators of two fantastic shoegaze records that have been a STAPLE in nearly every AOTY list for 'best albums of all time'. We ALL know that Deathconciousness is a modern classic, and we ALL know how much The Unnatural World opened up Have A Nice Life to a more wider demographic, becoming accessible while still remaining extremely creative and obscenely interesting. These guys aren't critical secrets and they aren't shy from the public eye (if arrowheads doesn't ring bells for you I don't know what to tell you). So where exactly were Have a Nice Life gonna take us? Would they become more accessible and try opening themselves to even more pop-centrist song writing as seen in their last record, or would they try carving out more experimental and gut punching musical sensibilities?
Well...kind of both?
The instrumentals and production are some of Have A Nice Life's best in my opinion. Of coarse the lo-finess of their previous records contains a certain charm to it, but having these guys go into the studio and fully craft the sound they always strive for. This is the most punchy and almost dancable Have a Nice Life record i've ever heard. It draws a lot more influence from elements of pure goth and emo rock then the usual shoegaze atmospheric side of their sound, less like Brain Eno and more like The Cure. Hell, I even spotted elements of pop punk buried deep, deep, DEEP in the skin of some of these compositions. The bass is deep and chugging, without compromising rhythm and melody having almost a surf rock feel to the sound of the 4 string. The guitars are a lot more sparkly and pretty then previous albums, but still don't loose a second of punch or grit to them. The drum work is also a lot more complicated then the basic thuds of previous records. The drum sound almost has a alt-rock style to it's playing. And that's one of the most disorientating things about this record. It really is way more catchy, groovy, upbeat and glorious then anything we've heard from the group. It's almost like the duo has gotten through the horrors of their trauma and depression and are now hitting a well deserved victory lap. It's just that this victory lap is a little more aggressive then most.
And in case this more 'positive' and 'fun' sounding HANL sounds like your worst nightmare, do not worry. This band is just as depressed, anxious and terrified in the lyrical department, even if the music tries to pick itself up from the terror. The lyrics touch on more 'current' fears, with the usual fears of religion and love being mixed with topics like 'climate change' and 'the end of the goddamn fucking world' because that's the world I guess we live in. It's the anthem for the scared, the alone and the terrified, making this oddly the most uplifting Have a Nice Life record they have ever made. And if that wasn't obvious from every song off this album...both Trespassers W and Destinos are on this album! Yep, the songs from their demo tape thing. They got an official release finally! Which...while it weirds me out that we are finally getting a release for this song, it somehow still works with the overall soundscape of this record. It's a much more punk sounding Have a Nice Life. It's if instead of being overwhelmed by sadness, the band is being overwhelmed in rage and anger, making this one of the most riot worthy albums the group has ever made!
But...it ain't all sparks and rainbows. For one, it's clear that this more straightforward route is something the group loves, but it does come at the sacrifice of some of the more dense, depressing and mind-melting moments in the groups discography. This album doesn't really have a moment like There Is No Food or a Hunter or a The Big Gloom. Hell, there is barely any track like A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm on this thing! It's all relatively lighthearted for this groups standards (which i'll conceded that they don't have a HIGH bar for upbeat but I digress) so based on what you come to Have a Nice Life for, this might not be your particular cup of tea. It's good tea for sure, but it's a lot more earthy then some tea-drinkers are expecting, especially when they just want pure fucking pain. And...I don't know if this is just me, but the vocals on this album (especially during Lords of Tresserhorn) are mixed so low that I can barely make out what the hell is going on vocally, and not in a stylistic way like in previous albums. Previous albums had such dense production that the vocals being to the wayside wasn't a huge issue, but when your going for more of a punky edge to your sound? You kinda wanna at lest try turning it up in the mix. That might just be a personal preference, but it really undercut my enjoyment of some of these tracks.
So, is this as good or groundbreaking as records from the past? No, but not a lot of albums in general are as good as those two are. It's clear Tim and Giles don't want to make Deathcon 2. It's just something they are not interested in. But in no terms at ALL does that make this particular album a failure. I for one am way more excited of this chapter of the band going forward! Hell, I enjoyed this WAY more then The Unnatural World! It's different enough so comparing albums feels a little...weird. It's like if the last two albums are David Lynch, this album is John Carpenter. Of coarse you CAN compare, but does that really mean you should? It's really goddamn good people. Don't sleep on this!
Favorite Jams: Destinos, Lords of Tresserhorn, Dracula Bells
Lest Favorite: Everything We Forget (but it's a really great inturlude