The Hard Aches – Mess


Album

Mess

Label

Anchorhead

Year

2018

For Fans Of

The Smith Street Band, Violent Soho, Luca Brasi, Tired Lion.

Summary

The Hard Aches at their very best.

Rating

90 / 100

I had the pleasure of seeing The Hard Aches twice last year, and thoroughly enjoyed their set on both occasions. Guitarist/singer Ben David and drummer Alex Upton make up this charismatic duo and their live shows are just pure fun, nothing else. David isn’t so much singing as he is recounting stories to us – always honest, brutal, shattering and upliftingly optimistic – through the endearing medium of catchy rock and roll, and it’s this kind of intimacy that gives the Aussie group so much of its charm and energy.

Thankfully, this sonic package translates perfectly over to their studio releases, and Melbourne producer Sam Johnson has successfully brought everything The Hard Aches possess to the table in a tight, warm and live-sounding mix. Incidentally, this is what I personally wanted out of the most recent Smith Street album to sound like, as much as I do enjoy the Jeff Rosenstock flavour. In fact, The Smith Street Band comparisons aren’t unwarranted at all, and I would say ‘Mess‘ is for people who like Smith Street but not the juvenile whinging ‘More Scared Of You…‘ descended into on a few too many occasions. There is brutal honesty, but also a charming ruggedness that smooths over the cracks of any potential awkwardness that endless lyrical self-depreciation often opens up. The record’s mix superbly handles the band’s super soft/loud contrast dynamic a whole lot better than the aforementioned Smith Street record did, too.

A host of excellent guest features also bolsters this new record, including Camp Cope’s Georgia Maq, Jeff Rosenstock (who happened to be in the country at the same time for Melbourne’s Poison City Weekender) and The Bennies’ Craig Selak, all of whom give the record an added sense of ‘round-the-campfire sing-a-long vibes, and that’s exactly what works so incredibly well with ‘Mess‘ (and the rest of the band’s music, for that matter). For these songs are just begging to be sung along to with mates at a packed out pub or down in a sweaty, wall-to-wall filled club. This unsurprisingly translates into incredible live shows, but it also makes sure that repeated listens of the record are all still rewarding. After just my second or third listen (and long afterwards too) I already felt like I had been listening to ‘Mess‘ for years. And I  mean that in the absolutely best way possible, because I was already singing and air-guitaring along like to this record like I was fourteen again, listening to Nirvana or The Cure while on the bus to school.

There is also an inherent Australian sensibility to the stories told by David across the album (comparable to things like a Tim Winton novel or The Castle), which will obviously appeal to the bogans more so than others. Yet it is this homely sense and a “focus on mental health in a hopeful and positive light” that gives ‘Mess‘ a tangible and lingering happy-sad optimism that is synonymous with the inherently Australian “she’ll be right” culture. Even at the album’s emotional lowest emotional points, there is always a strong undercurrent on positivity that lifts it past generic emo rock tendencies and up to the next level that The Hard Aches have always hinted at being able to reach in the past. Now, they’ve reached that point fully and it shows in the fantastic end-result.

Conclusion

‘Mess’ is finally the kind of killer album that I have been hoping The Hard Aches would make for a long while now. But hey, don’t just take my word for it: “the album is sonically (and creatively) the best representation of us as a band and the album we’ve been working towards creating through years of touring and making music”, said Ben David. Having jammed this utter belter of a record out multiple times now, I cannot help but wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment! This is The Hard Aches at their very best.

Tracklisting

  1. Mess
  2. Get Outta My House
  3. Happy
  4. Friendship
  5. Warm Blooded
  6. Terrible Things
  7. Outline
  8. Grinding My Teeth
  9. I Feel Like I’m Dying
  10. On The Mend
  11. Kat’s Song III
  12. Family

‘Mess’ is out April 13th via Anchorhead. 

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