Holy Fuck: the Canadian band with the in-your-face name, responsible for many moments of off-your-face euphoria. Surprisingly, though, once you get beyond these obvious and undeniable “headlines”, you will also find a band who are expert too at the more subtle, insidious manipulations. Returning now with a third album after the excellent Holy Fuck (2005) and LP (2007), they certainly don’t appear to be running short on ideas or momentum.
The overall atmosphere of this album is markedly upbeat. The dark corners of the band’s earlier material can still be found this time round – notably in ‘SHT MTN’, with its hard edges, and shrill, dissonant almost dystopian bleeps – but the predominant mood is definitely one of optimism and often outright joy.
From the funky bassline and light, party mood of ‘Red Lights’, to the chilled piano segments and shimmering synth of ‘Latin America’, the earlier tracks see a calmer, gentler Fuck. It is not until ‘Stay Lit’, though, four tracks in, that they really take flight. This amazing album highlight combines a warm tune (many of the melodies here very quickly begin to sound like old friends) with lovely unexpected synth interjections: quavery trills punctuating the melody and sounding somehow both touching, a little uneasy and yet also hilarious (how do they do that?). The superb drumming that runs through the whole album (see also: ‘Red Lights’, ‘Latin America’, ‘Stilettos’, ‘Lucky’) gradually and – yes – subtly increases the pace and excitement levels until before you realise it the track is moving at a gallop: all awe and wonder. A device that they use here and also on ‘Stilettos’ and ‘Pigs’, to great effect, is to introduce a pause or temporary dip, just as a track has reached the peak of its momentum and then to come right back in again at the height of intensity. The suspense and ramping-up of drama elicited only add, again, to the sense of feel-good excitement (this is the kind of music that, if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself shouting “Yessssss” when listening to).
The gradual-build-to-peaks-of-excitement trick is also prevalent on ‘Silva and Grimes’ (fast, insistent, compelling), and ‘Pigs’ (deep, dark synths over almost angelic melody and an amazing firework display of a finale). The other stand out, though is ‘Stilettos’, with its wonderful benign sense of urgency, once again galloping (as if the track can barely keep up with its own momentum) and spacey sounds in the background.
There are really only two tracks here that feel even slightly less than successful or fully-realised. ‘Red Lights’ is slightly underwhelming, though affable, and the pace on ‘Lucky’ despite the sterling drum work feels slightly leaden by its end. I would be willing to bet, though, that both of these will be elevated to the levels of the rest of the marvellous noise that this band produces when sampled in a live context (a context in which the band excel and in which you should definitely make every attempt to experience them, if you enjoy their music on record).
So yes, this is certainly an album that forms a compelling, beguiling, contemplative-yet-euphoric and utterly worthy addition to Holy Fuck’s canon. Wholeheartedly recommended.