ALBUM REVIEW: Haggard Cat – Common Sense Holiday
Haggard Cat have promoted album number two, Common Sense Holiday, by entombing themselves in concrete for twenty four hours, raising money for Extinction Rebellion and touring with British rock legends Jamie Lenman and InMe. After some excellent PR it is now time for the album to talk for itself, and if the aptly named opening track First Words is anything to go by this is a release with a booming voice.
The heavy angular opening riff inspires an instant head bang (or at the very least a foot tap) and continues to ease in and out of haunting distant vocals, before a combination of razor sharp harmonies and gang shouts take the focus. Within four minutes Haggard Cat have instantly captured the listener’s attention by pushing through the heaviness with soaring vocals and technical musicianship.
As every song flows and crashes into the next stage of this album the shear range of creativity is daunting, there are a full spectrum of emotions, genres and inspirations on display. There are so many moments where sounds switch frantically in and out of thrashing guitar and crunching drums, creating a real contrast in sound which in turn amplifies every emotion within the clever lyrics.
For a band with such a strong reputation for their live performances it is refreshing to hear some of that chaos captured in a set of recordings. At times not knowing what is coming next, especially on the first play through, is slightly unnerving as dark passages continue intensely as often as they switch into sweet hooks. The way this album flows and the ranges in both musicianship and vocals add the unpredictability of a live performance, a prime example being Time. The crunching riff, crashing drums and repetitive chorus are made to be played to a crowd and screamed back at the band. This chaotic style becomes all the more clever when it has been planned in this much detail.
Despite the huge range of qualities that on paper should not combine, Common Sense Holiday is eleven tracks of precisely constructed heavy music. The variety within the album makes comparison very difficult, which is another reason to fall in love with this record. There are nods towards an entire history of heavy music, with drums beaten to oblivion to back guitars that flick from shoegaze fuzz, doom, thrash, pop, to sludge and somehow keep the song structure in tact throughout. Although the vocals lead most of the hooks, there are drums you will tap along to and guitar parts that will have you humming.
As the album flies between songs it is very easy to forget that there are only two members of Haggard Cat. Somehow they create almost endless layers of sound, which pile on top of each other and combine playfully to lead in and out of hooks and shouts. Each of these playful moments has been cleverly crafted and even the most self-indulgent guitar solos have a place and a very carefully allocated time slot. There is certainly an element of flexing musical muscles within this release, but in composing such technical complex parts and rhythms the focus and flow of the album is never lost.
As far as similarities go there are so many elements to consider, almost every song brings in another nod to a great within heavy music. The weird chord progression of math rock greats Rolo Tomassi and Blakfish, the ever powerful vocals of Sparta or Eat Dirt, the intense breakdowns of Employed to Serve or Conjurer, and the developing of off-kilter combinations of The Cooper Temple Clause and Jamie Lenman all combine in to a fascinating combination of sparkling sludge.
Lyrically this feels like an important release, the subjects covered and the rounded way they are delivered show both knowledge and maturity. The dark humour that creeps in to even the heaviest moments is a clever lyrical device, that allows the most poignant lyrics to take the listener off guard. This is one of those records that captures the current news cycle and the worst parts of the political climate in a way that gently guides towards making an opinion rather than preaching.
Standout Tracks: Pearl, The Natives, Time
For Fans Of: Sparta, The Cooper Temple Clause, Queens of the Stone Age
Written by: Ben Adsett