by Evan Miller
Artist: Have A Nice Life
Album: The Unnatural World
Label: Enemies List Home Recordings/The Flenser
Living up to albums with critical acclaim and cult status is something that destroys and beleaguers bands time and time again. This what held the follow-up to My Bloody Valentine’s seminal Loveless in limbo for over 20 years. With that in mind, we finally have the sophomore LP from Connecticut band Have A Nice Life.
The band is a mix of shoegaze, gothic post-punk and industrial-style rhythms that, together with their depressing lyricism, is undeniably bleak. Their first release from 2008, Deathconsciousness, is an 85-minute double-album trek through darkness, sludge and distortion. (This is aided by the fact the album was mastered from 320-bitrate mp3s. Mastered.) The album, originally not planned to hit a major audience, spread through internet word-of-mouth and gathered enough buzz to elicit a quick-selling reissue in 2009. Riding that newfound wave of success, band members Dan Barrett (owner of the band’s label, Enemies List Home Recordings) and Tim Macuga took their time creating their follow-up, and the end result was worth the wait. At 48 minutes, their latest effort doesn’t scale up length-wise to their debut, but what it lacks in length it matches in continuing the same morose themes from the band’s previous work.
The first track released from the album, “Defenestration Song,” sounds like what Joy Division would’ve sounded like had they been more lo-fi and recent enough to acquire the shoegaze-guitar influences the track contains. The song contains some of Barrett’s characteristic depressed-and-existential thoughts: “I never thought I’d lead this restless life / I thought I’d wither down, a sacrifice / There’s nothing I can do to make it stop” and later “Is this what it’s like? / Is this what it’s going to be like?” One need not look any further for another example of Barrett’s negative writings than the closer track “Emptiness Will Eat The Witch,” to which the only lyrics are “No matter how hard I try, I’ll never reach the speed of life / No matter how much I write, you’ll never read a single line / Oh well, who am I to point it out? / You are no one.”
To say this band makes sad music is a bewildering understatement. Still, Barrett is a man who can (and should) put on a happy face, as he’s crafted an album that’s just as musically and emotionally gutting as his past work, and in its dark palette of colors, it is beautiful.