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Haggard Cat - 'Common Sense Holiday' Album Review


1. First Words

2. European Hardware

3. Human Animal

4. Show Reel

5. Rational

6. Time

7. Threads

8. The Natives

9. Cheat

10. Pearl

11. Ghosts Already

Matt Reynolds has previously described 'Common Sense Holiday' as the idea of abandoning all rhyme and reason. It is an understatement to say that the past four years has seen a lot of destabilisation of the world order and that to some, it seems as if we have taken leave of our senses. In this regard the title of the album is extremely clever.

Opening with feedback on 'First Words', pounding percussion and very distinctive guitar riff, if you think you can hear a familiar voice on this track you would be right. The distinctive guest vocal comes from Jamie Lenman. This is a strong first track and as the title suggests was the first number written for the album and the first single released from it. Rage ouzes through the high tempo 'European Hardware', the repetitive chorus of ‘We are building a wall’ leaves no doubt to Matt Reynolds and Tom Marsh’s opinions on the whole isolationist ideology behind Brexit, and their use of a Trumpian mantra. The second single release, is an angry rant full of power, and is an anarchic Punk thrasher, that reinforces the notion that bad politics, leads to great protest music. 'Human Animal', will be a real crowd pleaser with the catchy repetition of the title, there are killer hooks as well, and some sweet guitar licks. The tempo continues relentlessly with with the screamer, 'Show Reel'. However in a twist, it slows down midway, and then the tempo goes all over the place, almost venturing into Prog territory, rest assured though this is still only three and a half minutes long, so there is no self indulgence here.

There is finally some respite with 'Rational', their third and most recent single release. This seems a far more experimental sound which glides effortlessly on a mid-tempo lilt and features multi-tracked backing vocals. Although there is fuzzy guitar, this is a far crisper sound, with some nice key changes. Its tempo and intensity builds and builds. The punk swagger returns with 'Time', which is tight and features great guitar, and driving percussion, the catchy vocal hook will be great for a live crowd and I suspect the pit will be bedlam. Matt starts off 'Threads', with a John Lydonesque vocal, but as with many songs on this album the musicality on this track veers one way then another from Hardcore Punk to Alt Rock, from one tempo to another. As if to prove this point, 'The Natives', is almost dreamlike with a minimalistic military beat and sparse, ethereal guitar notes before the swaggering vocal cuts in halfway through the track. I really love 'The Natives', because you just don’t know where it is going, and the rhythmic vocal delivery is almost hypnotic.

'Cheat' reintroduces the rage fuelled energy of some of the earlier tracks on the album, with some melodic backing vocals behind all the trash. Again halfway through the song, there is an exquisite interlude with languid guitar and a silky smooth sax solo provided by Black Peaks crooner Will Gardner. Who would have thought of doing that, but it bloody works? Then with the sax still resonating it all goes mental for the last minute. At the end the track seamlessly merges with the intro for 'Pearl'. The progressive beat and guitar rift are pure Punk. The musical punctuation is the same throughout, and there are even some Scottish Rock licks thrown in for good measure. Whilst the rest of the album is made up of predominantly of three to four minute nuggets of napalm fuelled Rock, the album that defies the rules ends with an epic, over seven closing track. 'Ghosts Already', a cinematic soundscape that is introduced with an almost spaghetti western, Ennio Morricone score. It builds in energy and feedback and is almost as if Haggard Cat have thrown everything they have left into closing the album. I was knackered just listening to it.

Common sense dictates that an album is constructed a certain way. It dictates that each number follows a formula, there is structure and rules to be followed. Haggard Cat have abandoned all rhyme and reason, and ripped up the rule book. Expect the gloriously unexpected when listening to this for the first time. It is not a grower, it grabs you straight away, and has you thinking, what possessed them to do that midway through a song? Experimentation either creates something special, or a Frankenstein’s monstrosity. I am glad to say that this is the former. With some notable collaborations thrown in. This is a very good album indeed, inspired by the fact that for the past four years the world has collectively lost its mind.

Common Sense Holiday is released on 13th March via Earache Records.

Review - Tony Creek

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