As red herrings go, the opening track on Canadian four-piece Holy Fuck’s third album is quite something. For four long minutes an insistent, effects-laden guitar line slowly unfurls like a plume of smoke. Atmospheric though it clearly is, it’s not exactly the vibrant, in-your-face dance-rock that they’ve made their own. In fact, it’s such a side-step that when the clattering punk-funk of Red Lights erupts next it’s akin to being slapped round the face.
Latin arrives three years after the band’s second album LP, a collection of songs that went on to be shortlisted for the Canadian version of the Mercury Prize. No mean feat for a band whose music can be as abrasive and in your face as their moniker suggests. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Latin, however, is how the force and power of the music is harnessed into brilliantly realised songs. The near title track, Latin America, for example, builds from a glitchy, DIY template of cheap beats and scratchy guitar to take in a gorgeous piano line before drifting into a drum-heavy coda that slowly disintegrates.
Harnessing the sound is a constant battle and it’s this tension that allows the (mainly instrumental) tracks to remain captivating. The oddly named SHT MTN utilises what sound like saucepans for drums, whilst a heavily distorted guitar and the constant hum of a keyboard rattle around at the forefront. On paper it sounds like it should be unlistenable but between them the band and the four production wizards (including Paul Epworth and Dave Sardy) have mixed it to a sound that’s strangely beautiful. Even the pummelling bass and insane drumming of Stilettos is intoxicating as opposed to off-putting.
Still, it’s not all sweetness and light. The album closes with the monstrous P.I.G.S., which takes the same pattern of off-kilter drums and throbbing bass but skews it with blasts of keyboards, an unexpected middle section of wailing vocals and a thundering climax that sounds like the apocalypse.
It’s a breathless finish to an album that revels in the unexpected. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes and it’s clear with a name like theirs they won’t be appearing on Fearne Cotton’s playlist anytime soon, but there’s an energy and vitality to Latin that’s impossible to deny. If we are all going the way of the dinosaurs thanks to an erupting volcano, this is the soundtrack to the end of days. Thank Holy Fuck.