Review Summary: Thanks, I hate it
Usually, when an album seems to be fully applicable to my existence, I love it. When Simple Plan summed up my eleven year old self’s sadness in ‘Welcome to my Life’, I adored that song. When Bring Me The Horizon expressed some general sadness and rebellion on Sempiternal
, fifteen year old me couldn’t stop listening to it. Fast forward a few years, I find myself relating to Have Mercy’s fourth studio effort. However, this time I don’t enjoy this relatability whatsoever: The Love Life
's constantly disappointing nature reminds me of.. my love life.
Like most of my recent romantic encounters, The Love Life
starts off quite promising. Opener ‘We Ain’t Got Love’ features some pretty acoustic guitar work with vocalist Brian Swindle’s trademark rough-around-the-edges voice sounding surprisingly pleasant on top of the restrained instrumentals. However, barely a minute into the song, its chorus becomes grating after Swindle has stated that "we ain’t got love / no we never did
" a dozen times. To make matters worse, about halfway through, ‘We Ain’t Got Love’ changes gears and embraces eerie synths and off-kilter drums… and somehow manages to be equal parts surprising and boring. Once the ‘wow - they tried something other than bland indie rock!’ reaction wears off, the realisation that the music simply isn’t very good sinks in. Kudos for trying, I guess.
In similar fashion, the first half of ‘Heartbeat’ sounds really pleasant, with a nice riff carrying the verse. Initially sonically similar to The Dangerous Summer’s better work, the track completely implodes once awkward, digitally produced ‘owo owo’s introduce the insanely complacent chorus. Seemingly fully aware of its underwritten nature, Swindle’s vocals are low in the mix, burying the melody and rendering any catchy quality it might have had useless.
The majority of The Love Life
follows this exact formula: promising verses and awkward, questionable or straight up boring choices during choruses and bridges. It’s genuinely impressive how much potential is abandoned for these strange musical directions: ‘So Like You’ features a never-ending, hard rock inspired chorus and Swindle spends the majority of ‘Control’ breathing into the listener’s ear as if he is performing indie rock ASMR. Is Have Mercy trying to win over a stupidly niche audience, or is this album a failed attempt at trying new things while still conforming to the indie rock label? I’d put my money on the latter. Even when the band’s softer experimentation pays off on the genuinely impressive ‘Dressed Down’, the fact that the best song on a Have Mercy record is a ballad feels wrong. There is no ‘Coexist’ here, let alone a ‘Let’s Talk About Your Hair’.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about The Love Life
, apart from its constant red herrings and deceptive glimmers of hope, is how consistently ‘okay’ everything sounds. Even at its most experimental, the record only gets genuinely annoying when paying close attention to the details. The buried vocals play a role in this; while masking a lack of memorable melodies, it prevents anything from grabbing the casual listener’s attention. On top of this, these production choices make it easier to ignore the lyricism, rendering everything is perfectly listenable, albeit bland. However, if you don’t ignore the lyricism, you’ll hear Swindle proclaiming that he was “making love in the front seat and I saw God”
on ‘Clair’. Whatever the *** that means. After this important announcement of finding faith while shagging in a car, he states that he needs love… and follows it up by saying ‘I guess’ a grand total of eighteen times. While this could (and should) be relatable lyricism, the delivery, repetition and bland instrumentation make everything sound rather disingenuous. It’s a strange contradiction; Have Mercy make obvious attempts to tweak their sound, but fail to sound like they actually care. Another glaring example of a potentially powerful lyric being dragged down and coming off as an afterthought can be found on ‘These Streets’ when Swindle convincingly tells us that: “I’ll probably die in these sheets, I suppose”
The Love Life
is not an album that should be relatable, and, due to its low effort, insincere lyricism, it’s not. However, its constant missed opportunities due to the musician’s incompetence and fear of committing to one idea not only ruins what could have been a solid record, but also reminds me of my own, disappointing love life. Thanks, I hate it.