March AOTM – Holy Fuck – Deleter

 

New year, new music. And this is a story of one song, that lead me to an album, and how something that simple can bring such reward. I have been aware of the gloriously named Holy Fuck for a while, from their pleasingly daft videos, their excellent remixes, and the fact that they REALLY sounded like they should be on DFA. Their music – four guys, a bit of a rotating cast of synths, guitars, drums and a bunch of hardware – felt like something I should really be into but never quite did.

Then I heard Luxe on 6Music (of course) and I realised they may have finally got into my head for good. Yes, it has Alexis Taylor of my fanboy crush Hot Chip on it, but it’s much more that it’s an incredible track. Because even his idiosyncratic vocals are only somewhere in the morass, distorted in feedback and muffled in the mid-range as the track first wobbles around an odd sub-bassline and crisp drums, piano stabs, teasing with its destination for way longer than it should be possible to do, before it falls into structure, and then emerges into the sunlight, a percussive cut of modern, shimmering pop music. It’s quite the opener, and that’s possibly the main criticism of the album: where do you go from there?

The answer is, more of the same. And it just about hangs on to get away with it. Because it’s mining some of the best things about that oft-overdone, tired indie-dance hybrid that I’ve heard in a while. And while there’s echoes of all sorts of things in there, it also sounds like their own sound. The title track has shades of LCD – a vein that runs through all their music’s DNA – but there’s a lot of the Reflektor-era James Murphy-reworked Arcade Fire in there too, all scuzzy, submerged vocals, heavy drums, bleepy leads and jangling guitars and ooh-wee-ooh chorus. Endless bucks the trend, much more a guitar track, which to me comes much closer to previous AOTM and personal favourite Hookworms, with its edging into psych-rock and almost operatic stylings.

And what Holy Fuck lack in a singular vocal frontman – think their own Murphy, or Taylor – they make up in clever use of layering, distortion and harmonies. Free Gloss nails this perfectly with its soaring chorus that blends vocals, feedback and guitars, complete with a rocking, solo that makes me want to go and jump around a little club (only to find out their Manchester gig is sold out). There’s elements of the Chemical Brothers too, with Moment’s relentless drum-driven intro, and No Error is a brave sub-3 minute funk-smeared wobbler. What they may lack in perfectly balanced songcraft, they make up for in sheer exuberance and brio – San Sebastian is an almost angry, shouty, 90s throwback that sounds a bit like a discarded Blur b-side from before they went twee and irritating, with nods to Tame Impala, while Ruby doesn’t let up the pace, flowering at the death with a lovely, unexpected melody that fades into the ether as the distorted chords disappear. I also find myself thinking about 2020 uber-release Caribou at more than one juncture. This is a good thing. Yet for all their jangly, energetic energy, there’s more nuance than you’d first think, and a few listens in, the album takes on a much more three-dimensional shape.

In fact, for a band who’ve been around for so long (fourteen years and five albums) I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to properly seek them out. Perhaps this album is a that much of a step up. Because it’s certainly a coherent whole, and refreshing that, at 41 minutes, there’s not much filler in here. Yes, everyone’s buying Caribou, but that’s almost a given it’ll be loved. This is much more of a gamble, and one I think that’s handsomely paid off.

6 comments

  1. misterstory

    Nice one Guy. As always a passionate and well thought out write-up. Thanks for my CD. Despite all the digital-conversion conversations we’ve had I still love receiving my CDs in the post each month. So this will be a quick response rather than something more in-depth.

    First things first, I jumped the gun. I’ve been listening to this for a few weeks now … and I love it. I resisted all desires to read some reviews before I got used to it. And I am glad that I did. The reviews range from the terrible to the ‘better than average’. I think this is way better than that. It ticks so many boxes for me.

    As Guy has put far better than I could, there is a lot going on here. The LCDisms are clear but so is the wider DFA influence list which almost feels like they had a list of musicals nods and thanks to DFA artists … and I am totally fine with this. I am not familiar enough with song titles to make meaningful commentary but I will sit down with my headphones and a note pad and write another review. The obvious highlight is Luxe and Guy has pointed out the one challenge …. how do you follow that. I don’t think they’ll be opening their live shows with Luxe … definite encore. But as referenced by Mr. H, they do just about hang-on.

    When I look back at my favourite albums of a given year, it is most often something that doesn’t hit musical genius levels but something that just captures me and I end up listening to constantly. At present, Deleter is the album I keep coming back to listen to again and again. Thanks Guy.

  2. David Allison

    So. Not a full review yet, but I am quite enjoying this album. It slips down easily and has some good tunes on it. But…but…but…oh I don’t know. It sounds SO familiar. LCD and Hot Chip all over again. So I’m struggling to find it standing out on its own – and, for reasons I can’t quite grasp, it isn’t really connecting with me. Yet.

    So more soon, when I’ve had a few more listens.

  3. misterstory

    It’s still working for me.

    The more I listen to the more I am separating it from the more obvious influences. As the album progresses it becomes a little rougher and more raggedy which is actually quite a nice place to be.

  4. nolankane706

    On first impressions this album is great. I really like these guys. I would take it as far to say that perhaps more than Hot Chip. As highlighted, there is a depth of DFA influence throughout which I love. Is it too close? I’m not sure. Infact I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing?

    I’ve been listening to it allot over the last few weeks and the one knock I will give it is that opposite to brother Joseph the ‘rough and rugged’ becomes a bit too much. On numerous occasions whilst having it on in the back ground I’ve thought ‘what the hell is this?’. It would be fine if it was every now and then but more with each track they go off piste and take it somewhere that’s not necessary.

    There are some great tracks on this album. No Error is my current favorite. I need to spend more time with this and I admit that I’ve been sidetracked a bit by the new Caribou and Royce 5’9 over the last few weeks. Lets see how it survives through weeks of isolation with the kids.

  5. David Allison

    OK. So sorry to break the consensus on this. But I don’t know how much I’m loving this. I’ve been listening to it quite a lot while I’m running on our government mandated single daily exercise.

    It starts so strongly. The first two track are bangers, and if the rest of the album was this strong, I’d be all over it. Then, honestly, I think the quality drops off more and more as the album goes on. The problem Holy Fuck have got is that what they are doing has been done by a lot of other quality acts. The ghosts of Hot Chip and LCD are all over this, and it’s really hard not to make a comparison. Having Alexis Taylor on the first track almost kids you this IS a Hot Chip album initially.

    And what do Hot Chip and LCD have in common, especially in their finest moments? SONGS. Amazing songs. They use their alchemy to turn the raw materials of this kind of dance-pop, with its now familiar mix of Berlin Bowie, disco, krautrock and New Order influences, and they make something new from it. Their best songs are seared into our brain because they combine amazing tunes with often really smart lyrics that have something to say about everything from age to death to loneliness to childhood to the joy of dancing.

    The problem with this album is that most of these songs aren’t fully formed – they’re jams. As Nolan says, the rough and ready just gets too much. Up until Track 4, the quality is pretty good. And then from the track Moment onwards, it’s just a bit of a dirge. The following track, the Krautrock-ish Near Mint, is even more telling. It starts and you think, oh I love this, its going to do something interesting. And then nothing happens for 6 minutes. Imagine what James Murphy would have done with a groove like that! They needed to push much harder to make these songs into something more fully formed. It feels lazy at times. The last 2 tracks, you really get a sense of a band who’ve totally run out of ideas. Sen Sebastian, in particular, is just a bit of a mess.

    Having said all that, it’s musically right in my wheelhouse, as I’m sure it is for all of us. And I might stick it on to go running – Caz ran listening to it the other day and enjoyed it. But in a year’s time, will I maybe have forgotten about it? That’s the worry.

    p.s. Just heard Daft Punk is Playing At My House on the radio as if to remind me how good LCD are!

  6. whyohwhyohwhy

    Thanks for the responses here Brothers. I’m sorry I’m not on here more, but life is a bit strange at the moment. Great words, as ever, and I totally get where you’re all coming from and all the references.

    I listened to this again today, and I still really like it. Of COURSE it’s not LCD, (or even Hot Chip) and it does run out of steam, but once you accept what it is, and not what it isn’t, then I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I am.

    If they could just write lyrics, they’d be deadly!

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