Connecticut-based experimental two-piece Have a Nice Life have never been afraid of innovation. Their reverb-drenched drone and gothic rock sound covers so much space that it often feels easier to describe the band through the immense emotion their music evokes, rather than the alien techniques used to get there. It’s easier to enjoy the mythos of two troubled people pouring their souls into demos recorded on a MacBook after their masters were lost than to actually conceive of the graft that went into creating 2008’s masterpiece Deathconsciousness, as well as its spiritual successor The Unnatural World. Sea of Worry’s failing, then, lies in its prioritisation of craft over mystery, order over chaos.
The two-piece has expanded to include a full band, partly due to the pressures of touring, but also as part of a clear stylistic development; rather than the industrial shoegaze leanings of their earlier work, crunching guitars and tight drumwork on ‘Dracula Bells’ and ‘Trespassers W’ sound more akin to Interpol. This is by no means a bad thing, and the opening title track offers the best of this tangent, with the same pop sensibilities so apparent in Deathconsciousness’ ‘I Don’t Love’ rehashed into a driving, surf-tinged package. That’s not to say that the band has completely abandoned their old sound; ‘Science Beat’ and ‘Lords of Tresserhorn’, the latter echoing a bassline tradition from their earlier work, are moving continuations of the Have a Nice Life tradition.
There is just the lingering sense that idiosyncrasies like the four minute ambience of ‘Everything We Forget’ and the five-odd minutes of fundamentalist doctrine on closer ‘Destinos’ would be served far better if they were nestled in the caverns of Deathconsciousness, rather than standing awkwardly in the same 40 minutes as their straightforward rock counterparts. The form works against itself, leaving both feeling beached. Sea of Worry is a solid album. It just doesn’t feel like the cavernous, soul-excavating masterpieces which fans have come to expect from two of post-punk’s most emotional innovators.
Image: via Justin Snow via Flickr