There is a live studio version of Heart Attack Man‘s ‘Surrounded By Morons’ from 2017’s The Manson Family album that starts with a sample of 2001: A Space Odyssey played on out of tune trumpets, before the band launch into the song proper. It’s the sort of stupid goofing about we expect from slacker-punk bands who often lack US hardcore’s more political proclivities or the heavier end of grunge’s archly intelligent emotional reckoning; but when Heart Attack Man do it, it really sounds like they are trying to make us take seriously a scene still flummoxed and embarrassed by a history of Teenage Dirtbags and Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)s, and is more reminiscent of early pop-core experimentalists Alice Donut’s brass cover of ‘War Pigs’.
Those that have already heard Fake Blood’s title track will be familiar with its opening riff, structurally similar to ‘Pretend We’re Dead’, and all that’s missing is a cloud scraping chorus to take the track into ‘Stacey’s Mom’ or even early Killers territory, such is its polished charm, neither of which comparisons will make me many friends here I would wager. Clean and distort flat-pack punk. Only shrewd use of social media betrays the band’s work ethic behind the scenes, which perhaps reflects a grudging acceptance of their position in the grand musical scheme. Like Peter Pan, in a cul-de-sac of ideas with 2019’s short attention span.
‘Low Hanging Fruit’ is a short fast melodic hardcore interlude possibly with oral sex in mind while ‘Out For Blood’ is more punchy, if a little predictable, as our protagonist laments on, “restraining orders and neo-Nazis” and, “how did I become the bad guy?/kill me or I will kill you” for all those disillusioned old Camper Van Beethoven fans out there. But then Heart Attack Man go and throw in the darkly contemplative and slow-burning ‘Rats In A Bucket’ that becomes a pummelling no regrets ode to reprisals and revenge and is the sort of diary entry that should be a red flag if they were still in high school but bloody good too. Conversely ‘Moths In A Lampshade’, a short tinkling ballad, shows common sense after anger prevails, ending with a sentimental note to self: “you are the first to know but last to understand…”
Further lyrical gambits like, “I don’t hope you’re doing better, I’ll just cut my losses” (from ‘Cut My Losses’) may be self-explanatory and the quiet/loud tale of suicide and tough love, which probably sounds exactly on record as you would imagine it in your head before ending abruptly with a gently shocking shriek, “die”, that leaves the listener wondering if the track meaning has been turned on its head. So, all that said, Heart Attack Man are not without their unique and likeable traits and what Fake Blood lacks in subtle musicality the band more than make up for in wicked lyrical abandon. ‘Crisis Actor’ is about the paradoxes of modern society and is a fine example of post-hardcore/pop-punk with a cute spoken word segment on top of a political and socially charged underbelly, plus some sirens for suitable good measure. Perhaps the deepest and most rewarding thing here.
‘Asking For It’ and ‘Sugar Coated’ continue the upward buck on the second half of Fake Blood, the recurring themes of constantly being on the fringe of things and struggling to fit in, but from the vantage of a young grown-up, compared to some of this record’s immature vengefulness and hate-fuelled diatribe, but it’s this mix of politically aware commentary and overt aggression towards presumed individuals that grates a bit and doesn’t really sit with the slacker image they initially portray. It’s just difficult to tell at times if this is a genuinely personal album or a tick-box exercise in off-the-shelf anger which, while unsettling at times is often lacking any real rage. Even ‘The Choking Game’, a by-numbers slow-building anthemic closer, fails to get fully going, but does see us come full-circle somewhat back to the origins of the alt.American underground as it plays out as a musical link between Husker Du and Sugar and no bad place to be going forward.
Fake Blood is released on 19th April through Triple Crown Records.