Connecticut based duo Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga first made a splash in the shoegaze/post-rock/post-punk/industrial sphere back in 2008 when they released their first LP: ‘Deathconsciousness’, in which they highlighted their ability to create a dark, dismal atmosphere through swirling melodies, droney bass lines and echoey vocals. The critical acclaim that came as a result of this album led to both members pursuing their own endeavours – including Dan’s new project ‘Giles Corey’ and the setting up of their own label Enemies List Home Recordings. However, it is Have A Nice Life that receives the largest following and acclaim.
But how could they follow up a masterpiece of an album six years later? The answer it seems is more of the same. This time round Have A Nice Life have a self-awareness in their music (including a song by the name of ‘Dan And Tim, Reunited By Fate’) and they have shrugged off any humour from the record. There is no hope in the lyrics and feedback saturates the entirety of the album. Song titles such as ‘Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000’ and ‘Waiting for Black Metal Records to Come in the Mail’ have been dropped in favour of a darker tone overall, with titles such as ‘Cropsey’ – a reference to Staten Island’s infamous bogey-man like myth – and ‘ Unholy Life’.
The album plunges straight into the effects that create the album, and immediately the lyrics are even more dark and there the ever-present fixation with death that is common to Have A Nice Life and other side projects exists within them. The relationship between the guitars and drums can be equated to a battle more than a friendship, as sounds cut against each other through the sludge and noise. Even the tracks without drums (‘Music Will Untune the Sky’, ‘Emptiness Will Eat the Witch’) have an echoey, horrific vibe however. Yet, a huge atmosphere of fear and horror is created, especially in the sample from the 1968 documentary on Pennhurst State School ‘Suffer the Little Children’ in the song ‘Cropsey’ creating a great lead in to the swirling synths of the track.
If I had to have one complaint about the album however, it would be its length. Although the album feels long due to the slow-moving songs, it is around 40 minutes shorter than the monstrous one and a half hours that is ‘Deathconsciousness’, and after six years I expected more from the duo. Yet, the band is really at the forefront of the industrial/drone/shoegaze scene and this album definitely stands up on its own against other titles in the genres.