- by Steve Reynolds Rating:8 Release Date:2018-10-19 Label: Jezus Factory Records
In 2015 I had the pleasure of reviewing Grand Blue Heron’s debut ‘Hatch’, a full-on assault littered with influences from hardcore to post-punk to noise and fuzz. It had energy and it breezed through your ears like Billy Whizz on acid.
Three years on and they’ve expanded their sound with some subtle nuances – mainly adding room and space where previously they were quick to fill it with as many dense layers as they could lay their hands on.
Brittle opener ‘Wwyds?’ is pulsating and quick to hit the veins. A metallic sounding guitar combined the jerkiness of Jesus Lizard and the dark gothic line of The Chameleons. The vocals are cold and chilling in their delivery but sit easily in the surrounding squalor.
‘Come Again’ keeps a sense of post-punk perspective. The arrangements are close together; as if the band recorded in one take in a dark and dingy room. A band comfortable in their own skin to do what the fuck they bloody well like.
I can’t help but think that ‘Iron Milk’ isn’t The Hold Steady in drag. The vocal delivery has all the hallmarks of Craig Finn’s unique wordsmith style and the breakneck guitar interplay interweave perfectly.
But it’s not all foot to floor stuff and the moody blackened sound of ‘The Cult’ and the glacier guitar that sits on top of it all really showcases the band’s new approach to recording: biting but not violent, charming but not nice.
Throughout the 9 tracks on ‘Come Again’ there is a real sense of dystopia running through the heart of it. Mixing up the template of Bauhaus, with the air of disbelief of Joy Division and the melancholy joy of Pixies is at the very nerve centre of everything that the band does. It’s effortless at times, personified on ‘War On RA’ which is for me the stand out track on the album.
Packed with reverb and delay is ‘The Killing Joke’ taking more than a giant leaf from the 80’s goth rockers’ playbook with the intro from ‘ Love like blood’ then banging it together with the moodiness of The Mary Chain and you have one hell of a tune to get your teeth stuck into. The catcalling on ‘Zero Six Oh Six’ find the band in a much more feisty but playful place like they had decided to show a more of mellifluous charm about their output.
They total out with the ahem, inappropriately named ‘Chlamydia’ shouty, angry driven and completely unforgiven in its delivery.
All in all, the boys have made a very strong follow up to their debut. It’s a marked step up and although they haven’t made a huge twist in direction they have made enough changes to make you stand up and take notice of what they’ve done here.