Have a Nice Life – Time of Land

I generally don’t hold  EPs in particularly high regard. In most cases, the EP simply lacks the length needed to commit towards developing a concept, in turn limiting its ability to serve as a separate piece. Of course, there are exceptions, such as Modest Mouse’s Building Nothing out of Something or Agalloch’s The White. Unfortunately, in most cases the music on an EP serves as little more than an interesting mile marker to track the progression of a band in which one has a vested interest.

With this in mind, we turn our attention to Have a Nice Life and their recent EP Time of Land. If you recall, Trevor and I had vested much interest into Dan and Tim’s genre-stepping project since their promising debut LP Deathconsciousness. Soft-spoken melodies echoed in and out of a lo-fi oblivion with melancholic precision on a debut mitigated only by its unnecessary length. It was a stark expression of sorrow, sutble, yet deliberate, sometimes harsh and gritty, heartily making use of the time allotted to it to weave into extravagant crescendos that transcended the record’s limited production value.

Unfortunately, the debut was met with little or no fanfare, perhaps due to the immense absence of audio clarity. In this case, saying it sounded like an 8-track fed through a meat grinder would imply that it once sounded clean. Or perhaps it was the poor timing that hampered the project the most. The turn of the 21st century looked outward upon a future holding infinite promise and infinite treachery, both at the hands of shifty politicians and of the monolithic prospects of technology. This environment of anxiety, apprehension, and fear proved ideal conditions for fostering the ascension of post-rock; nearly every ground-breaking post-rock record, including Mogwai’s Young Team, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, and Explosions in the Sky’s Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever, saw the light of day in this transitional period between millennia.

After the turn of the century, both post-rock and drone stagnated as people came to terms with their gripping anxiety. Earth’s revival was near-silent, Tribes of Neurot calmly faded back into Neurosis, and Stars of The Lid sat for six years without a peep after their excellent 2001 LP The Tired Sounds of Stars of The Lid. Only last year, if at all, did we see a drone revival, due in part to the mainstream success of Sunn O)))’s Monoliths & Dimensions, and then so only to an extent. Groups like Emeralds and Konntinent were given decent exposure, though not enough to warrant their success.

Unfortunately, Deathconsciousness had to emerge in 2008, long past post-rock’s prime. While lo-fi was all the rage, what with No Age, Times New Viking, and Wavves leading the charge, it seems nobody had the stomach for calm lo-fi metal, especially not the kind that meanders just as much as it engages. Have a Nice Life was fated to remain, and has remained, just a blogger’s curio for now.

So is Time of Land any indication that HaNL are headed somewhere? To put it bluntly, no it is not. They’ve certainly smoothed down some of the rough edges on their debut this time around, but the overall effect holds less impact. For the most part, their energy has been reapplied to the drone side of the equation on tracks like “The Parhelic Circle” and “Wizard of The Black Hundreds,” favoring the deliberating melodies of former tracks “There is No Food” or “Who Would Leave Their Son out in The Sun.” It feels like a struggle towards immersion in solemnity, much like the first record, yet it falls for a lack of ambition. Neither track evolves like “Hunters” or “Earthmover.” Instead, they choose to slowly grow in momentum and then wane back into obscurity.

Have a Nice Life have built a reputation for themselves as one part post-rock, one part drone, and one-part metal. Despite this, they’ve let pop bleed into their music before, successfully no less. Unfortunately, lively moments like the infectious melody of “The Future” or the industrial march of “Deep, Deep” are never attained in the same way on “Woe Unto Us” or “The Icon and the Axe,” this record’s pop endeavors, with climaxes so subtle it makes you wonder whether or not part of the track had been cut off prematurely. The latter does end satisfyingly enough, with a refrain and some of the most concise, not to mention intelligible, prose the band has delivered. The lines “Oh, lord, the devil went down/ To a deep, dark lake where my body lay drowning/ Held me under the sea/ And I point to the river like the ocean was my body.” are free from the juvenile moanings of pubescence that made their debut’s few lucid moments so painful.

All together, this EP is much less satisfying than the band’s prior output. If Time of Land is any indication of where the band is heading, then now’s the time to start worrying. What made the band so arresting on their first endeavor is sorely missed here, yet most of what made it unlistenable is still laid bare, though the lyrical maturation was fortunate. Who knows, if they’ve learned from this effort, then maybe Have a Nice Life will be seen leading the charge in a future drone revival.

Score: D+

by Mason “I’d admire Dylan Carlson if he wasn’t so damn boring” McGough

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1 Comment

  1. New Review! Have a Nice Life – Time of Land « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Have a Nice Life – Time of Land, by Mason McGough […]

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