For Fans Of
Newcastle’s Safe Hands are essentially The Menzingers after a couple beers, a few really rough breakups and a massive hardcore music binge.
Safe Hands have been together for a number of years now and that time in the local scene has stripped away at a lot of their older heavier sound – not all, but most of it – which really is for the better. As it shows a substantial growth in their sound, is instrumentally more dynamic, and as utterly fucking overused as this term is, this album is a ‘mature’ step forward for the group, both musically and thematically. The ten finely crafted songs that make up ‘Tie Your Soul To Mine’ are just dripping with palpable emotion and bleak lyrics of personal conflicts about life and death, and everything that happens in between those two key points.
Now, in all honesty, this album genuinely depressed me while listening to it. However, I think that’s exactly why it’s such a solid record, ultimately – because of its effect over my psyche. The themes and lyrical content here would kill any positive, upbeat mood immediately, but if it didn’t do that, the record would be worse off for it. Seriously, this album stands alongside Have A Nice Life’s ‘Deathconsciousness’, The Antlers ‘Hospice’, Touché Amoré’s ‘Stage 4‘ (or any of their albums post ‘Parting The Sea…‘, really) and Pianos Become The Teeth’s ‘The Lack Long After’ as one of the most depressing albums I’ve ever heard. The lyrics are of course a big part of this reason, but it’s the actual music and instrumentation that aided in giving me the blues, so to speak. The droning melodies and dissonant timbres and overall vibe of the record are not only superbly melancholic but so engrossing that they’re even quite haunting and ominous at times. But the best part is that the tone and the emotion of this record never once felt forced. ‘Tie Your Soul To Mine’ isn’t the kind of record you put on at a party or at a mate’s weekend shindig; it’s a soundtrack for a cold, rainy day, for late night drives, and for lying awake in your bed at night, all of which I experienced during my time with the album. (I legitimately don’t know if this is saying more about myself than the actual record right now, but whatever).
I do doubt that the members of Safe Hands are akin to say, King 810’s members; the kind of people who take their art so fucking seriously that it’s almost comical and scarily apt. But I wouldn’t mind either way. For the music is what really matters, and sweet merciful Christ is the music here good! Hell, even if the band members were a bunch of downers, I can totally understand that; they’re from Newcastle, after all.
Musically, there are a handful of moments that showcase Safe Hands heavier style of old and the one song that embraces it fully is ‘The Pinch’. This song almost plays out like an old Converge or The Dillinger Escape Plan track, but the vocals aren’t quite as heavy or as abrasive enough for it to fully pay off & the band floats back into their melodic, dark, punk rock soundscape after a short while. It’s in this sound that their music becomes the most potent and where it feels most comfortable existing within, and I feel as though the more jagged, intense hardcore sections should be backed off even further for future releases.
However, ‘Small Fortune’, ‘My Very Own Grey Gardens‘ and lead single ‘The Great Affair’ balance out their new sense of melodic songwriting with the heavier styles of their past, the latter of which has an ending that becomes as cathartic as it gets. Yet its ‘Born In The Last Shower’ that’s the true show stealer here, and with its thrashy, heavier sound in the final stretch, and the – dare I say it – poppy and upbeat guitars and soothing vocal melodies round out a complete, banging sonic package. The record then takes its final professional bow with one of its strongest offerings; the brilliant six-minute closer, ‘Wagtails’. At first, the track is a sombre, emotional acoustic track, accompanied by occasional soft keys and a slow, relaxed vocal delivery from vocalist Benjamin Louttit. Just by itself, this would’ve been a fitting end to the album, but oh no son, Safe Hands aren’t done with you yet! Halfway through ‘Wagtails‘, the rest of the band returns to create a slow, foreboding soundscape that expertly builds along before a final emotional climax brings everything home.
There’s something so bleak and depressing, yet so engrossing and intriguing about ‘Tie Your Soul To Mine’. It remains rooted in the conventions of punk & hardcore but contains such an authentic air of real life emotion, struggle & loss. So much so that the song’s themes, lyrics and vocals would have received a vast disservice if the grand punk rock instrumentation here was trying to reinvent the genre’s wheel. The novacastrian’s in Safe Hands have something very cool on their collective hands here, and while it may bum you out emotionally, you’ll love every fucking second of it. I swear.
- The Coliseum 1921
- Traffic Island Wreath
- My Very Own Grey Gardens
- The Great Affair
- Small Fortune
- Pushed To The Moon
- Born In The Last Shower
- The Pinch
- Til All The Birds Fell Off The Roof
‘Tie Your Soul To Mine’ is out now via Lost Boy Records.