Graham Reid | | 1 min read
It has been some years since Dunedin's Ha the Unclear (the band helmed by Michael Cathro, who was interviewed at Elsewhere) first broke into our consciousness with the terrific, quirky, funny and very astute album Bacterium, Look At Your Motor Go.
There was more than just wit at work, also an acute understanding of many aspects of pop history which were distilled into tight and memorable songs.
When that kind of mentality is at work, it doesn't evaporate and this follow-up outing raises the musical stakes in terms of energy, ambition (from Beat Pop through Goth-lite and baroque pop) and sensibilities.
Wallace Line for example opens with a pure pop jangle but increasingly becomes fist tight with anxiety. It's cleverly constructed, says something and is in the top 20 list for this year's Silver Scroll.
That nomination (from fellow songwriters) is an acknowledgement that Cathro – who sings with flattened antipodean vowels and seems to have a uniquely philosophical and scientific worldview (the slightly prog Things Ritual Things) – is a gifted writer and there is ample further evidence throughout this very poppy indie-pop collection.
Cathro doesn't shy away from complex ideas or a tumble of lyrics in favour something simplistic and an easy rhyme (check the urgent narrative of Big City), and there is very urban thread here, dealing with the mundanities and complexities of the 21stcentury in a city (the furiously cynical All Our Friends Have Moved to Australia with the raging and accusatory lines “scratch the earth, scratch the earth”).
Dogs at the Dinner Table right at the end is a thrilling condemnation of consumerism and the insult/assault of advertising subverting the actual necessaries of life (and underwear worn by rugby players isn't among them because “none of this shit can make us happy”.
But there also is a real heart behind all of this -- check Supermarket Queues (Together) -- and all the sentiments are buoyed by memorable melodies and a sure sense of commitment.
It's been almost four years since the previous album and it has really been worth the wait.
Recommended . . . and go find the previous album too.
Ha The Unclear - Invisible Lines Tour
Friday 3rd August - Christchurch, New City Hotel
Saturday 4th August - Dunedin, The Cook
Saturday 11th August - Wellington, Meow
Friday 24th August - Auckland, Whammy
Saturday 25th August - Mt. Maunganui, Brew Co.
Sunday 2nd September - Melbourne, Noisy Ritual
Monday 3rd September - Melbourne, Old Bar