England - Full Moon 67 - 03/28/02
Let's Get Worse
Are there any deserts in Northern Ireland? I doubt it. If so it must be the "war-fields" caused
by years of struggle and fighting. But hearts? Oh, yes. Heart and soul (Remember the Undertones,
aye?). Warmth and affection within. Let's Get Worse shows a shifting mixture of warm and
cold soundscapes, pulsating through landscapes of passion and aggression.
Desert Hearts is a trio from Belfast, presenting charming noise-pop (described correctly as
"mid-80's widescreen indie" and a "long lost Martin Hannett gem" by Hot Press). Charlie Mooney is
the guitarist and vocalist, Roisin Stewart plays bass and sings as well, and Chris Heaney plays the
drums. In addition Robert Johnstone and Will Bradley (of Life Without Buildings, another band from
the Tugboat label) also steps in on the album with guitar fills. The young lads of Desert Hearts put
out their first single (on Tugboat) No More Art in 2000. Even tough they're British the songs
are more like coming from out of the american underground. The press sheet describes the music as a
mix of My Bloody Valentine (Isn't Anything) and the Pixies (Surfer Rosa), which I
don't find to be too accurate. Desert Hearts don't have the blurred, innerspaced-out shoegazer-guitar-trips
of MBV, and, well, they're stepping in and out of the raw, but more like, say, the early TransAm albums.
Other bands that come to mind are Joy Division/New Order (early days), The Wedding Present, the Delgados
(Let's Get Worse was recorded in Glasgow, at the Delgados Chem19 studio), and Versus. The latter
because of the boy/girl vocal and the sweet/sour, kind/rough pop melodies.
The record holds 10 songs, and most of them please me really well. When the album is kept so simple
and distinct sounding, it helps the album to work as the tight dish of songs as it is. No shiny lip-gloss
or sticky make-up. "DSR" (with the chorus going "disarm the USA" - quite fitting these days) opens very
early 80's new wave sounding. "136" is a short instrumental, with distorted cascades, before they unveil
the great "Florida Keys": a "sneakingly innocent" sounding pop song, ending with a quick and refreshing
fuzz'n'feedback shower. This one, along with "A New End", reminds me of the excellent N.Y.C. combo Versus
(and/or Fountain's - of Versus - sideproject Containe). The quicker "This Is This" holds Joy Div/New Order
bass lines, but with sudden punchy powerfuzz surprises, topped with Roisin's sweet voice. Then again come
some heavy Mogwai meets Seam offensive parts. When hearing "Crown" and final track "Last Song" I think of
The Wedding Present (the best to come out of Leeds since Peter Lorimer's free-kicks). "(3.39)" is another
buzzing bee of a song, breeding energy and sweat. The end of this also makes me become (almost sobbingly)
nostalgic, recalling the Wedding Present (Seamonsters era). "No More Art" is a bouncy bumper of a
song, and maybe the most shining moment of Let's Get Worse.
An indeed strong debut album. The sound of Belfast's new heart pounding. Peace. Get worse. If that
means better. 'New wave' isn't dead.
Distribution in Norway: Tuba!
Copyright © 2002 Håvard Oppøyen