Boy Harsher - Careful - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Boy Harsher - Careful

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2019-02-01
Boy Harsher - Careful
Boy Harsher - Careful

The duo of Jae Matthews and Gus Muller, aka Boy Harsher, have dropped their second full-length album, Careful, after their first, 2016's Yr Body is Nothing, and two EPs, 2014's debut Lesser Man and 2017's Country Girl. They've established themselves as modern purveyors of the kind of moody, pseudo-industrial goth most reminiscent of 80s bands like New Order or Bauhaus, but with a female vocalist changing things up nicely. The set meanders between more straightforward synth pop and darker, edgier sounds, tending to favor the latter in tone if not structure.

Opening track 'Keep Driving' revs up slowly, and builds up like a lit fuse crawling towards something awful. The parallels to a Dave Lynch or John Carpenter soundtrack are clear, with a bleak, black synth line. Things lighten up just a bit in 'Face the Fire', thanks to a lilting key melody. But Matthews' ghostly vocals keep things shadowy and veiled, and a squelchy antique synth late in the tune provides some off-kilter flair. The four-on-the-floor march of 'Fate' shows off an EBM Euro influence from groups like And One or even Front 242. The quirky percussion and almost panpipe backing line give it some real personality too.

I had to double check my playlist when 'LA' started up to make sure I hadn't accidentally gotten Information Society mixed into it. The bouncy synths and throwback orchestral stabs made me chuckle, but once the gloomy vocals joined in the flavor of the song changed entirely. One thing is consistent across these songs: no matter what the music itself is doing, Matthews is goth goth goth in her vocal stylings. 'Come Closer' shows this again, with a rolling synth line that reminds me distinctly of the Moby track 'Have You Seen My Baby'. But it's a hell of a lot creepier. Matthews sounds like an obsessive stalker than you should definitely not come closer to.

'That Look You Gave (Jerry)' uses a lot of 80s-flavored dark electropop instrumentation too. Along with the aforementioned groups, it reminds me of Siouxsie and the Banshees for some reason. It's like hearing factory doors slamming closed all around you while smelling scented candles. 'Tears' is steady and solid but doesn't take any chances, with a by-the-numbers synth melody and more of the same moody singing. For me, this really is a lot like And One, who oftentimes sound like they're playing the same five songs over and over again. Not bad, but I've heard it all before, many times.

Thankfully, the album does take a chance on the set song, 'Crush', and instrumental that gets dark and spooky, with disturbing vocal samples and a general sense of impending doom. You can hear some dark ceremony going on in the distance, and it's very wrong. This is one of the strongest candidates for a horror movie soundtrack. But 'Lost', despite the name, drags us back from the void to a safer, more predictable place. It's slightly fresher sounding, in part due to the lighter synth chords. But the final title track drops all that again and plunges into something evil. It's essentially a dark ambient track, with layers of unsettled pads flowing past like dirty glaciers.

This set isn't perfect. Some of the poppier songs are a bit boring, but to be fair, the band does some interesting experimentation on the instrumentals, and none of the songs are really bad. Certainly, none that you'll need to skip. If you enjoy wearing black clothes and brooding, Careful is a winner.

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