Sometimes it takes a minute for works of art to sink in. Back in the early ‘00s, Tim Macuga and Dan Barrett were quietly working, lurking in the shadows, preparing their project’s debut record. The process took nearly five years, with the resulting Deathconsciousness being merely noticed upon its release. However, this cruel of twist of faith provided Have A Nice Life with a cult following, and in time their ambitious, double debut record became one of the pillars of experimental rock music in the ‘10s. Macuga and Barrett would carry over their post-punk foundation, flourished by shoegaze and industrial elements to unleash in 2014 their excellent sophomore The Unnatural World. The record radiates with the mythos of new wave, with Have A Nice Life taking advantage of the romanticism and ethereal essence of the genre. And now, the duo strikes again with their third full-length, Sea of Worry.
Label: The Flenser
Have A Nice Life stand at a strange place. On one hand they are enamoured by the idealistic side of post-punk, the immediacy and straightforward attitude of the genre with all its melodic overtures and catchy choruses. Yet, on the other end Macuga and Barrett display an obsession with the experimental edge of heavy music. The energy of improvisation, the static power of noise and the subliminal messages that can only be passed through ambient pipelines. This dichotomy has always defined Have A Nice Live, and in Sea of Worry it is at its most pronounced.
The record is separated into two sides, which display much of this fractured identity. The vitality of the title track arrives through the trademark, repetitive new wave progression. A towering bass line and a few sparse guitar strums dress the scenery in perfect darkness with the elusive vocal delivery adding the necessary touches of melancholy. It is a trip down memory lane, with Have A Nice Life awakening much of the glory of the ‘80s scene through their own bleak lens. The trip further evolves through the slower pace of “Dracula Bells”, with the band awakening a devilish doom rock element, before the electronically infused “Science Beat” joins in, washing away the weight in favour of an ambient, shoegaze informed lyricism. The unbalanced trip closes in stunning fashion with the surf rock inspired riffs of “Trespassers W”, paving the way for the complete change of perspective that occurs in Side B.
And so out goes the direct, immediate riffs and catchy choruses as “Everything We Forget” opens in mesmerizing fashion with a majestic ambient overture. The slow build-up unfolds slowly, in a pseudo-orchestral manner leading to one of the most astonishing moments of Sea of Worry with “Lords of Tresserhorn”. Here, Have A Nice Life are completely consumed by the spirit of shoegaze with the track presented through an ever elusive veil of reverberated drums, distorted bass and faint background melodies. The duo masterfully navigate this intricate space, finally reaching a perfect moment of catharsis with the explosive noise collapsing all notion of structure and progression. It is the necessary lead to the 13 minute epic closer “Destinos”, featuring some disturbing speeches featuring religious fundamentalism. Yet in pure Have A Nice Life fashion, the duo seems almost unaffected by these terrible utterances, opt for an ambiently inclined, orchestral progression. Letting the record return back to its beginning, listening again to the opening title track it is astonishing to see how much ground Have A Nice Life have been able to cover. Has this distance been traversed in a smooth and linear manner? Definitely not. But, it is within this abrupt and sudden sense that Sea of Worry finds its inner truth, its volatile and unpredictable nature.