The buzz about Don’t Worry is that they’re a very British band who play – get this! – a distinctly American brand of emotional post-hardcore. And yeah, it’s true that songs about Oyster cards and £5 smoothies, delivered in unaffected Harlow-ese, are a novelty in a musical landscape dominated by our trucker-hatted cousins to the West.
Luckily, once you’re past the initial shock of the new, Who Cares Anyway? – the Essex foursome’s debut LP – is a record that really stands up. Their real triumph is the successful melding of the tough-but-melodic riffing of Dinosaur Jr or Title Fight with lyrics that offer an unguarded window in to young, English masculinity in the age of Love Island.
The band’s co-fronted by singer/guitarists Ronan Kehoe and Samuel Watson, and it’s the interplay between their two distinct vocal styles that lends real gut-punch heft to songs about the drab minutiae of life and love for Generation Rent. The spectres of ageing, mental health and uncertainty are a lurking presence throughout, and they’re indulged and exorcised by turns as Kehoe’s vocal - always teetering on the verge of a throaty roar - sits alongside Watson’s more subdued style.
Case in point: lead single “Confetti” opens with a fluttering of clean guitar before it’s ripped asunder in a two-pronged assault by Kehoe’s vocal and a muscular, distorted hook, making for a cathartic deep-dive into the long and protracted process of self-acceptance.
“Wknd”, on the other hand, showcases a softer side to their sound, with a focus on intricate, interlocking licks suffused by Watson’s bleary mumble, swapping to-the-point lyricism for a more abstract sense of suburban numbness. I’m not saying they’re stuck in their lanes – Kehoe’s given ample opportunity to channel his inner fingerpicker on “Bird”, and Watson cuts loose to deliver the histrionic squall of “Who Cares (You Care)”. The point is that both singers know who they are, and they deploy their strengths well across an impressively multifaceted roster of songs.
Don’t Worry aren’t changing the game, and it’d be wrong to suggest that they’re trying to. What they are doing, sincerely and well. is taking the intensely personal and making it universal - and catchy too! These are seriously well-assembled tunes, as deftly arranged as any in the genre, and powered by a killer backline in bassist Alex Reed and drummer Jack Byrne. Producer Bob Cooper (itoldyouiwouldeatyou, Ducking Punches) does a sterling job of beefing up their already powerful live sound, while allowing the heart of Don’t Worry – those funny, bittersweet lyrics - to take pride of place on their sleeves.
Who Cares Anyway? is a record defined by a core of honesty and authenticity – as close as you can come to a deep chat with a stranger without having to sink 10 Oranjebooms at a house party. It sounds a lot better, too.