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Holy Fuck
Latin Alex Denney , May 24th, 2010 10:25

You can't split the atom with a rusty hatchet, but fuck it: lunging wildly at thin air with an axe beats neutron bombardment for sheer entertainment value, and Holy Fuck are no slouches in the entertainment department. Founded in 2004 by Graham Walsh and Brian Borcherd and supported 'til now by a rotating cast of musicians, the Ontarian duo achieve their gnarly, steam-punk mauling of the krautrock sound without the use of loops, laptops or pre-programmed backing tracks.

It's a doggedly future-primitive approach which has drawn plaudits through two fine albums culminating in 2007's Polaris-nominated LP. But if there's a question mark hovering over the prospect of a third long player from the arrestingly-named collective, it is, perhaps, whether they can nudge their sound into a more emotionally-nuanced territory that will stay with the listener after the visceral thrill of the music subsides. Though you couldn't credibly hope to call it a reinvention of the wheel, Latin offers tentative steps in that direction.

Although there's nothing to compare with their most straight-up ecstatic moment to date, the string-laden stunner 'The Royal Gregory', Latin does place firmer emphasis on seeping texture over exposed-cable sturm und drang. It represents a quiet erring towards melody and expanse in what has to date been an overwhelmingly rhythmocratic template.

'1MD' sets out stall accordingly - like Brian Eno contemplating the universal law of entropy - but the band follows it with the sprightly funk guitars of 'Red Lights', which sound like !!! soundtracking an 80s police show: a slightly ho-hum reference which suggests that emotional range still lies tantalisingly out of reach for the 'Fuck heads. The cosmic uplift of 'Latin America' recalls a teutonically-fixated Death In Vegas, spelling out the beginnings of something more stirring even as it evokes a weirdly inbuilt obsolescence.

“Stay Lit''s eerie trilling and off-kilter rhythms seem better equipped to suit the band's evolving needs. It resembles the Penguin Cafe Orchestra firing off laser beams into a hall of mirrors, with unexpectedly moving results. 'Silva & Grimes' is a particularly convincing excavation of Neu's motorik sound, yet nonetheless highlights an important difference between the two styles. Whereas the kosmische bands tended to evoke their infinite highways with a sort of icy chronoclasm, this lot feel like they're accelerating towards a notional end point, a rock-inherited trait which generates plentiful heat but also feels key in delimiting their emotionally stunted approach.

'Stilettos' at least finds them reverting to type with power-drill vigour, rattling along brilliantly like a chorus of furiously waggling joysticks. And that's another 80s allusion that brings us neatly to the rub: unless Holy Fuck can move beyond such kitschy abstraction, they'll continue to begin and end at play and pause.

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