Have A Nice Life - Deathconsciousness
Indeed, there are many albums which have been lauded over the years I have spent listening to music which, on closer examination, turn out to be instantly forgettable drivel latched onto and lauded by hipsters solely because they think it will make them seem cool in the eyes of their peers if they claim to have liked it before anyone else had ever heard of it. Such people always seem to me to be invariably socially-inadequate teenage boys who spend their time in basements, deprived of sunlight and developing a vitamin D deficiency, scouring Myspace of whatever for the latest obscure release by the latest obscure bunch of talentless no-hoper wannabees.
Don't get me wrong. If this is what they want to do that is fine. If they want to make the claim that the next best thing really is the next best thing rather than an irredeemable crock of shit, that's entirely up to them. Just as it is my prerogative to be an embittered old cynic, so it is theirs to be (what I would consider) a pretentious optimist. We can co-exist because we can go our separate ways. I can emerge in the sunlight. They can sit in the dark playing World of Warcraft and listening to obscure sonic sounds by whoever.
What this prolonged outburst of cynicism has to do with Deathconsciousness by Have a Nice Life may not be immediately apparent. But when you register that this album was put together over a prolonged period, self-issued accompanied by a mini-philosophical tract and only available in limited locales with either a great deal of luck (or a significant amount of money for a CD - £38 on Amazon, wtf!) the reader may begin to see the connection. Yes, before listening to it, this album has ‘pretentious bollocks' written all over it.
Initial listens to the album neither confirm nor dispel that admittedly prejudicial assumption. The first conclusion one may draw is that this may be the first post-post-rock album ever made. Many have described it as shoegaze; those many I suspect are of the misguided opinion that shoegaze solely consists of noise and indistinct lyrics. Whatever this is, shoegaze it most definitely is not. The production is poor, but that more often than not is deliberate. The opening track, "A Quick One before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut" suggests that the primary influences are Godspeed! You Black Emperor involved in a slow motion car crash with a drone band. I am always wary of instrumental openers, and while there is some incomprehensible warbling at the end, this is, to all intents and purposes, an instrumental.
It is not until the second track, "Bloodhail" that you think you might be onto something. The track seemingly borrows a drum and bass line from Joy Division. The track is notably heavy and features some pleasant dual vocals. However, this momentum, probably deliberately, is not sustained. "The Big Gloom" is less accessible and less memorable. The much-lauded "Hunter" then follows and while there is undoubtedly a lot to listen to in this track, dense soundscapes of fuzzy drums, thick bass and layers of guitar, it takes a lot of effort to appreciate the whole nine plus minutes of it. It is worth the effort, but don't expect an easy ride.
The remaining three tracks on this disk are the shortest. "Who Would Leave Their Son out in the Sun" is in much the same vein as "The Big Gloom", but somehow less impenetrable as this time the sadness the band desired to convey actually comes through. It provides a necessary interlude between the other two and, collectively, the three tracks conclude the first half of the album in a manner which sets the listener up for the second disk.
That second disk is at the same time the better and the worse of the two. The opener, "Waiting for Black Metal Records to Come in the Mail" takes some time to get going, but leaves a positive impression when it does. Above all, it seems to confirm that the band themselves could prophesy their upcoming status as next best thing by caricaturing those very basement dwelling troglodytes described in the second paragraph of this review. "Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000" is another track with a pseudo-humorous title - but the mixture of acoustic guitars and electronic twiddlings underpinning heavily distorted vocals create an effect of melancholy even though you have no idea of what the song is really about.
There then follow three shorter tracks. "Deep Deep" erects an almost impenetrable wall of sound while "The Future" provides what seems like frustration and anger rolled up into a hammer with which to beat the listener into submission while "I Don't Love" takes another stab at bludgeoning the listener into clinical depression. Finally, "Earthmover" then spends eleven minutes which initially seem to take you nowhere. It is not until you realise that this track brings you to the end of the album, that going nowhere is the whole point. There is nowhere to go.
This flawed epic of death, religion, life, finality and eternity is merely a snapshot of the incomprehensibly wide spectrum of emotions and sensations which comprise those themes. They have no beginning and they have no end, and each track is like a postcard for an endless journey - it tells you a little bit about the here and now, but nothing about the beginning, the journey or the end. It is not the most depressing album ever made, as the liner notes proclaim. Neither is it a masterpiece of minimalism, eclecticism or even musicality. It may be the best album of the year 2008 (well, noit quite but close) but how much of that is due to the fact that the rest of 2008 was so miserably sub-par.
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