Breaking with the usual review style here, for a moment, a question, and a vignette. Do you remember the first time you heard Nick Cave yell “Hands up who wants to die?” at the start of The Birthday Party‘s Sonny’s Burning? An anchor, a scream into the abyss of your teenage angst. For me, that melancholy admission, the projection of mutual nihilistic thought into the ether, is a moment after which I was different.
I say this because, after weeks and weeks and weeks of playing West Of Eden over and over, this is the only other moment in my musical past that even gets close to the emotional impact of this album. (Which, of course, makes up for that one time at a HMLTD gig in a warehouse in which I got punched in the face, then had to use a page from my copy of The Satanic Bible in the loo to wipe my arse.)
It’s been a rough time for HMLTD. Three years of being formed beneath their belt, a brief stint in America where their support slots with Nine Inch Nails were panned. Being signed, then dropped before their first album. Well, no wonder our queer-does haven’t managed an album up till now. But, West Of Eden is finally here, and damn, are HMLTD finally going to get that fame they so deserve.
We open with a running bass line, over which that Sonny’s Burning growl announces: “Three years ago I said/ The west is dying right beneath my nose/ And I’ll be so glad when it finally goes/ I hate to say I told you so/ THE WEST IS DEAD.” With this truth exposed, and HMLTD’s mantra aloft, we’re crashed into 15 perfect electronic pop/rock tracks littered with ironic poetry, thumping danceable beats and a peppering of Satanic references of which Anton LaVey himself would be proud.
Loaded is music to strip to, combining a catchy EBM chorus “Yeah I sold my soul to the devil cos I was pretty fucking poor… I sold my soul to the devil and I, and I’m still pretty fucking poor but my gun is fucking loaded.” with HMLTD’s signature time changes and break downs. This anthem to violence not money makes a great satire of our capitalist and violent society. To The Door, a personal favourite, stakes its claim as a forerunner in the queer cowboy revolution – again switching at its pivotal musical moments into an opiate, dubstep haze.
Satan, Luella And I champions hope, making full use of the etherial gospel choir that pops up here and there elsewhere on the record. Instrumental pieces beckon West Of Eden forward, pulling our ear gently through the bending of genre we’ve come to expect from the boys. And a special mention has to be saved for the perfect coupling of the piano vaudeville murder ballad alter ego Joanna with Where’s Joanna – where this alter ego made flesh is suddenly murdered, and the narrative takes a plunge into the world of violence against women.
One message is loud and clear in West Of Eden. ANGER. BILE. FIRE. MURDER. Because what is art without bile? Millennial humour is furious and surreal, driven by anti-depressants and anxiety, Australia is literally on fire, there’s a deadly virus grounding all travel, our politicians are fucking idiots and it’s just getting worse. What we’ve got now is a world full of millennials that have grown up to make art about these injustices. HMLTD have done just that, focusing their trials and tribulations through a magnifying glass to burn us mere ants. And oh, how I love a bit of self-immolation.