The post-punk, lo-fi, metal amalgamation that is Have A Nice Life has evolved their unconventional instrumentation and obscure imagery into a more accessible form that explores melodic passages while retaining qualities of their unique stripped sound.
It’s been five years since the duo’s last project and with their third full-length “Sea Of Worry” they find themselves using more traditional structures and a distinct change in vocal style that resembles Paul Banks of Interpol more than Peter Murphy of Bauhaus.
“Musically, their latest work is a departure from the droning, ambient soundscapes of HANL’s last album, The Unnatural World. They instead embrace their roots, relatively straightforward to-the-point post-punk tunes,” Bill Peel wrote in a review for Killyourstereo.
Their newest record sees them revamp two songs found on 2010’s B-sides and demo album “Voids” by giving them updated production and reformatting their song structures. Leading up to the release date, they dropped three singles, leaving listeners with only two new songs.
“Trespassers W” original intimate instrumentation was updated into an electric hard-hitting goth anthem that probably worships Joy Divisions “Transmission” just a bit too much. The closing track “Destinos,” is the longest on the seven-track listing, lasting at a gargantuan 14 minutes and giving an extended intro of a man describing the aspects of hell that drags on.
“Destinos” ending is also changed through adding pounding industrial drums to the brooding ambient textures the synths create. Dan Barret’s vocals are also given a more washed out treatment that adds to the sorrow-filled atmosphere and melds with the warm acoustic warbles more cohesively than the original mix.
“It’s effectively the present meeting the past, realized in a far more rigorous effort. As an album, both sides, both halves avoid the sometimes directionless (although brilliant) spirals of their prior LPs but instead operate with a fixation and calmness that conveys maturation and planning,” stated magazine Treble.
The track listing’s cohesion is a bit questionable with the seven pieces flowing very awkwardly with each other. This makes the dynamic shifts between tracks a weakness as opposed to a source of variety you usually get from a HANL record.
“Sea of Worry” is split up into two parts. he first half has more upbeat tracks such as “Dracula Bells” and “Sea Of Worry” that prominently feature bright synths and jangly guitars. The last half of the record has a dreary aesthetic opening up with the dark ambient piece “Everything We Forget.” The next track, “Lords of Tresserhorn,” uses noises that emit warmth and add to the melancholy expressed throughout the track.
“Have a Nice Life’s early work had a tendency to shape-shift, presenting as garage rock on one track only to unravel into ambient noise on the next. On Sea of Worry, these shifts are more abrupt; the pace of the record suffers as a result,” stated Pitchfork writer Arielle Gordon.
Although the pop presentation may turn off old listeners of HANL, it doesn’t overshadow the black comedy filled lyrics and bleak atmospheres the cult group has built a reputation for.