Given how much mileage Boy Harsher have got out of their first few releases - their Lesser Man EP has been reissued more times than this Norman Records™ description writer has had hot dinners - it wouldn’t be over-egging the pudding to call Careful one of the most eagerly anticipated LPs of 2019. The duo’s second full-length record finds them adding a touch of Johnny Jewel-ish noir to their icy coldwave sound.
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Imagine if you will the cheery and hedonistic music of Glasgow’s Free Love stripped of that cheer and hedonism and you’ll have got close to Boy Harsher. They’re at their core, also a synth-pop band, but what with a austere outlook and a stark aesthetic. Augustus Muller's cold and unloving synthesiser melodies and reverby drum machines stand unnervingly behind Jae Matthews who angrily whispers awful tales of anxiety and longing.
There’s a slow churn about Boy Harsher. The music on Careful is mostly built on throbbing bass lines from which the rest of the songs emerge. This is how they create tension, almost unbearable tension. And what do they do with that tension? They relish it, they revel in it. Matthews’ singing points to it and say, “you see this? I want you to feel it too”.
Despite all this, most of the music is eminently danceable. There’s something about sad, brooding music, that you can writhe rhythmically that feels particularly profound. Being energetic in the face of feelings that are potentially crushing feels defiant and victorious. Sticking a beat over this sort of music is looking defeat in the eye and refusing. That’s what ‘They Look You Gave (Jerry)’ sounds like. Defiance. There are also darker moments, most notably ‘Crush’, which leans into the band’s more industrial proclivities. Underneath are Matthew’s vocals, she sounds utterly crushed and on the verge of tears. It’s not a comfortable listen but it’s incredibly effective. Between these highs and lows, one thing is certain. Boy Harsher know how to captivate an audience.
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