Review Summary: high out of my mind on orange fanta // don't call my mum
Good times end, but droning guitars can make them feel like forever. That's a key part of the promise behind shoegaze, and one of the reasons it's such a go-to genre to wallow in – yet in the hands of Hotline TNT, its appeal is less the slow release of a daydream and much more the pep and buzz of a twelve-year-old in the company of too many sugary beverages and chart pop ecstasy at whichsoever local rich kid's over-attended birthday party: prosaic delights upscaled into a rare treat. Much like those parties, their latest record Cartwheel
is ultimately an excellent time, setting itself apart against the gazillion bands that offer some version of the same experience through palpably invigorated performances, stellar production that maximises both noise and polish without ever suggesting that either was prioritised at the expense of the other, and the occasional unexpected flourish – "Out of Town" warps its central guitar hook into a live-wire flicker, while "Spot Me 100" takes a leaf from Sobs' book and introduces gratuitous breakbeats for an extra rush. Both are instant highlights. Cartwheel
expunges the customary languor of shoegaze with generous levels of energy, amplifying the time-altering Wall of Fuzz that good gaze lives and wheezes on while avoiding some of its most obvious tropes – "I Know You" is the only track here that dips into the classic trem-bar swoon. For those who like their thrills to have a pronounced yet wholesome relationship with their blood sugar levels, this is as good as it's been as of late (see also: Marnie Stern's The Comeback Kid
, released on the same day).
Also like those vanilla-plus children's parties, Cartwheel
tries a little too hard to cling to the moment. "That Was My Life" is exactly the kind of flabby interlude that albums around the 30-minute mark (i.e. this one) usually have the foresight to exclude, while on the other hand the album's appeal is so unabashedly oriented around short, sharp bursts of more or less the same kind of gratification that it suffers palpably (though far from fatally) from diminishing returns across a full listen. Its central songwriting formula is a sturdy, if simple one, and while it is largely responsible for no-frills pop glory as on "I Thought You'd Change" and "BMX", the band are easily confident enough in it that a small handful of minor departures may have gone a long way in revitalising the core appeal. Frontman Will Anderson's best monotone drawl does little to remedy this throughout the record – 80% of the time it's a perfect match, and then suddenly it's time to go home (and you bet your arse the carpool hero mum of the hour still has this on).
None of which is to say that Cartwheel
ain't addictive: sugar is sugar, and the record's bitesize pacing renders 'digest' and 'binge' interchangeable notions. Neither is it entirely shot of depth, thanks to a strong melancholic undertone that renders the band's self-description as music to listen to after redownloading hinge
a dead ringer if you look for it ("Protocol", "Maxine"); good times end
can just as easily be ending
if you that's the cut of your jib. Anyhow, it's hard to be overly harsh on the band for getting too hung up on a good thing, even if there's a missing something
back from knockout excellence. Get your twelve-year-old into it; be
your own twelve-year-old to it; ravage yourself on caffeine with it. No use raising the ceiling on unabashed comfort jams when we're all inside generating) honing an impending adolescence's worth of terrible dance moves.