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Its always disconcerting to us when something starts flying off the shelves when we haven’t a) reviewed it b) listened to it c) even heard of it. We are, believe it or not, comprised of deeply flawed and sometimes useless human beings and so on occasion it is possible to completely miss stuff.
As it is with this second album from these Connecticut based post-industrial darksters. They weigh in with a sound which is one part bleak-era Depeche Mode, one part Jesu style noise one part….um….Nine Inch Nails. Everything is big and cavernous as if the album was recorded in the biggest aircraft hangar in the whole world. I’m sure they are going to regret mixing the drums so loud on ‘Defenestration Song’ as I’ve never heard anything like it. Its as if they’ve got the one of The Cure’s better bass lines, asked Dave Gahan to sing bleakly on top and reverbed Stephen Morris drum patterns to within an inch of their life so they drowned the whole lot out. I guess you’d call it shoe-goth particularly on opener ‘Guggenheim Wax Museum‘ which is Depeche Mode as produced by M83 with Kevin Shields on guitar i.e huge.
Elsewhere they explore more out-there soundscapes, on ‘Music Will Untune The Sky’ they wail over huge slabs of detuned guitar chords. ‘Cropsey’ relies on disturbing found television dialogue about Pennhurst burbling away underneath hesitant glockenspiel. They generally, however, pursue a more upbeat path with staccato drum machines, melodic darkwave bass line and spindly guitars. My favourite track ‘Unholy Life’ sounds like the more cerebral ‘90’s shoegazers, distorted enthusiastically yet somewhere amongst the chaos is a tune of sorts. Devilishly short,it will leave you pining for more.
The ghosts of Joy Division and Bauhaus are never far away particularly on the thumping metallic repetition of ‘Dan and Tim Re-united by Fate’ where a massive carbuncle of processed guitars blasts through the chorus to semi obliterate the entire track. Occasionally you wish for an ear cleanse, which duly appears on the closing track ‘Emptiness Will Eat the Witch’, a slo-burn drifting ambience that proves that they don’t always have to turn the knobs up to 11 to impress.
The album is an uncompromising take on the kind of early 80’s goth stylings that also infiltrates the music of the likes of The Soft Moon, Zola Jesus and Cold Cave. Its full on and sometimes a little overbearing but maybe thats the way it has to be.
9/10 Steven Holland Customer review, 28th January 2015
It's not easy putting an album like "The Unnatural World" in to words. It's noisy, no doubt about it, not in the ear-assaulting sense but there's a cavernous void that the album's built upon that Have a Nice Life have filled with so much doom, gloom and fuzzy feedback that "The Unnatural World" can easily become too much for the weak of heart and indeed, the close minded. Not that I'm doing the whole "you just don't get it" routine, no way. The Conneticut outfit's miserable yet deeply hypnotic séances, heard here on "The Unnatural World" have a way of reaching out to the pessimistic, socially scorned and damaged part in all of us and if you're not willing to let that part of you come out during this album's playtime, then you...well "you just won't get it".
As for the music, it's a well blended mixture. It's hard to grab at any particular genre most of the time because the band have mixed their influences up in to a grey sludge that helps paint the ever so gloomy picture of the record. Post-punk is a pretty major factor though, early 80's goth like The Cure's 1981 masterpiece "Faith" comes to mind as the album's base (and the bass performance on this track sounds like a fine nod to Simon Gallup's bass playing on that particular record). Add to the mixture a foreboding, gothic ambience a la "Within the Realm of a Dying Sun" by Dead Can Dance and top it off with some of the more disturbingly noisy drones of Nurse With Wound ("I've Plummed This Whole Neighborhood" immediately springs to mind) and you have a basic idea of what Have a Nice Life are doing here.
"Cropsey", my personal favourite, I find quite tragic. The song begins with a subtle key presence that accompanies an extract from the harrowing 1968 film "Suffer the Little Children", the eye-opening documentary on Pennhurst State Home. The extract being an interview with a "mentally retarded" boy named Johnny who, like many others at Pennhurst suffered a great deal because of the things that happened to him at the cruel mental hospital. The whole piece conveys this perfectly, and that void I mentioned before? It's pretty hard to find your way out of it after this one.
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