Francis Harold & The Holograms - Who Said These Were Happy Times - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Francis Harold & The Holograms - Who Said These Were Happy Times

by Mark Hammond Rating:5 Release Date:2010-05-24

'Intro - Nightmare.' This is the Ronseal of song titles. Never has there been a more appropriately named opening salvo to an album. This hits you like a hammer-wielding Kathy Bates, a little more than vexed at her favourite author for killing off one of her beloved characters. Only she hits you in the head. And she's had a decent run-up. If Chairman Mao had an endoscopy you'd find this song within him. It's the internal monologue of Jeffrey Dahmer or depending on how you qualify unhinged evil, perhaps a Teletubby. "This is my nightmare!" wails Harold as if we'd have mistaken it for his effort at an Andrex jingle.

Francis Harold & The Holograms hail from Bisbee, Arizona but listening to any of the songs contained herein lends no geographic distinction to its members. If anything, Francis sounds like Mark E. Smith trapped in a chest freezer suffering a manic episode that Carrie Fisher would find distressing.

'Chain 10' sees the band affect a sinister bass hook that underpins a wash of discordance. Guitars pick out all the wrong notes severely amidst shrieking feedback, bending and twisting the strings to simulate a banshee that just stubbed its toe.

As the album progresses the songs seem to be mixed so that they become incrementally louder. Whether this is a Dadaist experiment or a genuine attempt at blowing up the listener's head like the ConSec in Scanners I can't be sure.

'Black Boots, Red Shirt, Little Boys' attempts a frontal lobotomy and then asks whoever is left alive to join it in a hearty game of rugby with the grey matter it has just acquired. Melody has been wilfully omitted and nasty, brutal rifforama noise has taken up residence. That is until 'Contact' arrives, opening with a disconcerting groove-laden hook that catches you completely off guard. Despite its allure, it's hard to recline when you know that another ambush lays in wait. Despite sounding like a Stone Roses pastiche, this is the albums most evil moment as the bass meanders and persists until you succumb only for 'Why Are You So Afraid?' to smash through your unexpected reverie like a bullet train powered by plutonium.

'Why Are You So Afraid?' is an interesting question to pose at this stage in the game. Let's see. Well Francis, you're all wearing crude masks; one of which most terrifyingly and unnerving of all, looks like the melancholic dog from Daft Punk's 'Da Funk' video. Secondly, you're all channelling a rabid, serial killing maniac's sub-conscious through your instruments.

Who Said These Were Happy Times.

Indeed.

Mark James Hammond

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