Hagana
One Year


2.1
poor

Review

by Jom STAFF
March 12th, 2014 | 19 replies


Release Date: 03/04/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: RIYL: The same humdrum for about 37 minutes.

Reviewing independent releases can be a tricky undertaking for several reasons. We see the objectivity vs. subjectivity argument - and the loose interpretation and applicability of these constructs - all the time. What's the balance that we should strive for, exactly? Is a review more than just some self-righteous, Metacritic-endorsed dickhead relaying whether or not an album, film, or video game is 'good'? What about publications that influence the proverbial hivemind or new, casual, or uninformed consumers -- can we say with any certainty that professional standards or integrity exist, regardless of personal writing styles or artistic approaches? My philosophy is that writing with transparent probity and candor serves as a satisfying counterbalance to writing with credibility and intention. I don't think I've ever misled anybody into believing that I am a professional writer; in fact, I figured my self-deprecation is old hat by now. My goal is that, after reading, my audience knows what to expect from a record, why I liked or disliked it, and whether or not it'd be their cup of tea.

Taking the above into consideration makes reviewing Hagana's self-produced One Year a bit challenging. The Scottish trio's album title chronicles the misfortune, heartbreak, or strange happenstances that each member endured from the first recording session to the final mixing day, a time that coincidentally lasted a calendar year. One Year is a throwback in the sense that it sounds like an '80s new wave/pop rock album, but all the synthesizers have been replaced with crushing, grungy riffs that wonderfully couple with the outfit's pop sensibilities. To that effect, envision XTC's Skylarking or Tears For Fears's Songs from the Big Chair and integrate that with The Wildhearts, Troublegum-era Therapy?, fellow countrymen The XCerts, and/or early Nirvana riffs for the core Hagana sound.

After an ineffectual intro, One Year officially rips open with the anthemic "Voice for the Voiceless", featuring a bruising main riff reminiscent of early Therapy? but infectious enough to distance itself from sounding overly boilerplate. The song continues its aggressive tempo, pummeling along with the tried-and-true method of heavily palm-muted verses bookending a confident, energetic chorus. "Voice for the Voiceless"'s guitar lead, especially in the chorus, could stand to be pushed higher in the mix - a common theme heard throughout One Year - but "Voice" also shines with its abrasive drumming and raucous bass. The track's final minute, specifically, is a highlight with its piercing cymbal crashes and distortion-laden guitars. Meanwhile, lead single "Fuzzy Punch" is decidedly radio-ready with its memorable hook, harmonized vocals, and another heavy-hitting main riff. "Fuzzy Punch" also provides a glimpse into the band's punk aesthetic, which is prominently displayed on tracks like "Wait a Minute", the to-and-fro "Candy Boy" with its sardonic snarl, and the hasty "Trousernose". As a closer, "Connect 4" is striking, and its final two minutes are wonderfully bombastic. Drummer David Chisholm worked double-time as the album engineer, and to his credit, he does a masterful job ensuring that the percussion is crisp and appropriately mixed. I also quite liked the sharp, cutting bass tones from Gary Pycroft and how clearly they resonate throughout One Year.

Unfortunately, Hagana's debut LP is marred by its lack of dynamism and depth. With some exceptions (such as "Seaquest"'s meandering first section or the aimless "Friend", which provides a brief, albeit bland respite from the cacophony), having one volume, tempo, and song structure from start-to-finish is not particularly captivating. Without the pauses in between songs, One Year could pass for one giant setlist where the band takes the stage for a 30-minute gig and robotically plays its set, never interacting once with the audience or introduce what the next song is called. Lyrically, One Year explores some off-the-beaten-path topics ("Sparrowface" has curious lines like "I want to talk to a penguin / I want to hear what he says / You must be so fucking freezing / Why don't you just fly away?", which might confuse armchair ornithologists), but they ultimately fail to engage more often than not. Similarly, vocalist/guitarist Leo Fox's range sounds supremely limited, and his banal delivery rarely ventures outside of that spectrum, oftentimes being drowned out by the buzzing guitars. Occasionally, there is an innovative vocal style ("Wait a Minute" is rather brilliant, sounding like Social Distortion-meets-Rollins Band with its rockabilly flair), but One Year sports the same low-end and high-end vocal register with little, if any, variation or dimensionality. The same can be said for the instrumentation - the fuzzy guitars certainly deliver some bite in spots, but there's no discernible attempt to deviate away from the monotonous guitar tone or delivery. Some lead parts, such as ones heard in "Voice for the Voiceless" or "Watch My Step", could benefit from being pushed higher in the mix, but on the other hand, they sound like unfinished ideas.

There's little doubt that One Year's contents would translate masterfully live. The energy and gusto contained in songs like "Voice for the Voiceless", "Wait a Minute", and "Fuzzy Punch" are clearly palpable and surefire crowd-pleasers. The hooks in these songs, along with "Watch My Step", the "Ahh-ah-ah-ahhs" in "Seaquest"'s final stanza, and sections of "Connect 4" are delightfully catchy. One Year's primary fault is in its sonic consistency: the overall lack of dynamics, range, and depth outside of the distortion pedal, combined with only select memorable passages, makes for a trying listen. The tracklist could be arranged and re-arranged and the flow would not be disturbed; even further, sections of one song could be cut and pasted into another song and the album would still feel and sound the same, barring "Wait a Minute", of course.

Grungy, distortion-heavy, and sporting an admirable who's-who of musical influences, One Year is a frenetic and energetic album that would be refreshing to take in live, but incorporating a few more stylistic and functional dynamics would make it less one-and-done and more of a mainstay in the rotation.

Jom recommends:

"Wait a Minute"
"Voice for the Voiceless"
"Fuzzy Punch" - video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zty7BhdoedU

I give up trying to embed a specific song: http://hagana.bandcamp.com/




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user ratings (1)
2.5
average

Comments:Add a Comment 
mryrtmrnfoxxxy
March 12th 2014


13271 Comments


nice words

Digging: Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright in the End

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 12th 2014


2682 Comments


The Soundcloud is private and their Bandcamp is Fort Knox, so:

http://hagana.bandcamp.com/

greg84
Staff Reviewer
March 12th 2014


7397 Comments


Amazing review, Jom.

Fuzzy Punch was quite enjoyable.

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 12th 2014


2682 Comments


If there's a staffer who would get into this most, it'd most likely be you. I don't think they teeter towards noise rock more than other genres, but there are some flourishes of it that would probably catch your ear.

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
March 12th 2014


16026 Comments


so i love XTC theres a chance i might like this, great review anyway

Digging: iamthemorning - Belighted

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 12th 2014


20857 Comments


Jom, great review & all, but I'm very disappointed in you. I mean, look at that new, shiny avatar of yours shaking like a polaroid picture. Anyone would think you're some kind of excitable new rookie. Must I be the only one around here to uphold tradition (& be boring)?

Asdfp277
March 12th 2014


1093 Comments


", makes for a trying listen"

sweet a jom review

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 12th 2014


2682 Comments


Asdfp: why the italics?

>> Jom, great review & all, but I'm very disappointed in you. I mean, look at that new, shiny avatar of yours shaking like a polaroid picture. Anyone would think you're some kind of excitable new rookie. Must I be the only one around here to uphold tradition (& be boring)?

People were being bitchy with me about Santa Varg since it's March, and I'm too lazy to turn his hat and Kanye glasses green for St. Paddy's :[

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
March 12th 2014


16410 Comments


santa varg was best

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III ? Saturnian Poetry

CaptainDooRight
March 13th 2014


29453 Comments


m/


Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III ? Saturnian Poetry

LordePots
March 13th 2014


6946 Comments


Review Summary: RIYL: Hearing the same song for about 37 minutes.


sold!!!

Digging: Four Tet and Terror Danjah - Killer / Nasty

LordePots
March 13th 2014


6946 Comments


lol though that could be a perfect summery for Feedbacker by Boris though and in that context it would be a positive comment

sniper
March 13th 2014


19059 Comments


your reviews always make me feel like i'm familiar with the album. i'm almost never interested in listening to the albums you review though.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
March 13th 2014


7307 Comments


Two reviews in two months omgz

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 13th 2014


2682 Comments


>> i'm almost never interested in listening to the albums you review though.

GREAT SUCCESS!!! Sonata Arctica's new one is next; I'm sure you're PUMPED.

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
March 13th 2014


7047 Comments


Lol Jombomb jokes : )

Good to see you putting your thoughts out for the world to see. Love the honesty in that first paragraph.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2014


3421 Comments


Jom against the system! Awesome review man, especially the first paragraph (very true words!).

Digging: Electric Wizard - Time to Die

greg84
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2014


7397 Comments


I enjoy tracks 2-4 on this, but later on this becomes a Nirvana rip-off, and there are still too many Niravana copy cats out there. Anyway, this is lacking in consistency, but I don't think they're awful.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2014


2682 Comments


They're not awful. I'm sure they'd be great live, but it's just one fuzzy sound with very little dynamics or inflection.



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