Review Summary: A dynamic mix of grungy, youthful abandon and delicate moments of introspection, "Heavy Harm" shines through the cluttered musical landscape of contemporary indie and alt rock with its beautiful vocal harmonies, wailing guitar lines and poetic lyrics.
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Papa Vs Pretty release their first major label EP "Heavy Harm" amidst a growing wave of hype surrounding their energetic live performances, and prove they really are a band to keep an eye on... Right now. Produced by veteran Australian music industry figure and Something for Kate frontman Paul Dempsey, the EP displays high production values in its crisply recorded audio, yet maintains a primordial rawness; smooth falsetto singing and intimate acoustic guitar finger-picking face off against explosive passages of passionate strained vocals, wailing, crunching guitar work and stomping basslines.
Title track and lead single "Heavy Harm" introduces the record with the massive heart-felt vocal delivery of Tom Rawle, confessing "I don't know if it's right or it's wrong, I just know that it's heavy", against delicate finger-picking guitar; setting us up for an incredibly enjoyable dynamic wrestle between the song's fragile verses and the crunching guitar chords and belted vocals of the grand chorus. "Wrecking Ball" unleashes a grunge fuelled bass stomp, its driving sense of urgency so contagious you lose yourself in the climactic loud and frenzied assault of guitar and smashing drums; a fury similarly embedded within "Sgt. Suffer" and the classic hard rock inspired "Ask Yourself". In the latter, vocalist/lyricist/guitarist Tom Rawle gets all existential, amounting the weight of the world to the simple question, "is life experienced, or something else?", through the colossal echoing drums, overdriven guitar riffage, and the subtle melancholic addition of an underlying organ drone. Beautiful vocal harmonies rear their heads throughout all the songs, but never is this more apparent than in the much lighter and relaxed "Piper", which unwinds at its own contented pace, reigning in acoustic guitars and an understated clean-toned electric guitar solo, before progressing into a slightly more urgent change of pace towards the end. The EP's longest track, grand finale "I Still Believe In Us", is awe-inspiringly epic; not through bombast or excess, but through the poignant minimalism and slow but steady crescendoing build-up. Strong visual imagery in Rawle's sincere and softly sung lyrics tap into the imagination to present an endearingly hopeful tale of the persistence of humanity; the song growing from Rawle's solitary acoustic guitar and haunting vocals, to an emphatic group effort climax. The bass drum kicks in, providing a spine-tingling new-found sense of momentum to the piece, and gradually, as the bass guitar and other subtle instruments and nuances begin to seep through the mix, creating a rich musical texture and sense of warmth, the song bleeds into its strong and enduring chorus filled conclusion.
"Heavy Harm" is a fantastic achievement for Papa Vs Pretty, signalling the arrival of a determined, earnest and dynamic band, whose songwriting talents are already mature beyond many of their contemporary peers. Fuelled by their youthful energy, Papa Vs Pretty show they can deliver the hard-rocking fuzzed up musical explosiveness of their live shows in a recorded context, alongside some much more subdued and introspective songs. Each song on this EP is packed full of emotion and executed superbly, and for that, I eagerly await future offerings.