When Brummie foursome Peace were pushed to describe their new LP, ‘Happy People’ – they compared it to a piece of candy that had been dropped on the floor that had picked up all manner of grimy sundries. Those Birmingham lads must have got their sophomore album confused with Nai Harvest’s latest album, ‘Hairball’, because if you were ever going to compare a record to a grubby chunk of confectionery that was sweet to the taste but covered in dust, bits of manky hair and other kinds of filth – it’s this one. The Sheffield duo have anchored a collection of songs on rushes of poppy splendour but kept things ramshackle – not so much like a bull in a china shop, Nai Harvest sound like a grunge-punk band colliding with the treat counter at the movies.
It’s too easy to lump Ben Thompson (guitar/vocals) and Lew Currie (drums) in with the so-hot-right-now 90s revival thanks to their grungey motif. Whilst there are grounds for those comparisons, Nai Harvest have brushed up (or is that sweetened up?!) the indie-rock of back in the day with catchy hooks and a great use of dynamics. Most of the time ‘Hairball’ pelts along like a five year old hocked up the eyeballs on sherbet but when the sugar lull kicks in the duo’s sonic delivery unlocks an understated poise, and a restraint that befits an outfit beyond Thompson and Currie’s age. The album’s closing and title track, puts paid to this excellent use of ebb and flow – the band shift from hurtling grunge-punk before dipping into sauntering ripples of tempered drums and laid back riffs and then back again for a fizzing finale akin to shaking up a bottle of cola before whipping the cap off to let the frothy liquid spray everywhere.
There’s a summery aesthetic to ‘Hairball’ but one where the forecast warns that a risk of showers is imminent. On face value, all the charging drums and jubilant guitar-play makes for an album soaked in vitamin D but lyrically Thompson explores feelings of frustration, detachment and forlorn love. “When you want it all the time/you don’t get what you want every time” may sound clunky in black and white but punctuated by rickety grunge pop, it works a charm, as does the yelped “I want to be free” that proceeds said lyric. It’s odd to think a song so drenched in sunshine can be called ‘Drinking Bleach’, this sweetly cooed hazy number is indeed tagged with gargling heavy duty cleaning fluid. Album centrepiece ‘Ocean of Madness’ drops the pace to a smouldering crawl with Nai Harvest flexing their anthemic muscles – “and you know it never gets better when you’re living in your own hell/don’t let me drown in an ocean of madness/I want to swim in an ocean of you/don’t let me lose something I can’t control” can viewed as a sentimental declaration of love or the moment when you’re hanging by your fingertips with the precipice of rejection looming underneath you, pleading for the hand of that someone you adore to save you. ‘Gimme Gimme’ restores the album’s syrupy DNA with a blitzkrieg of frazzled riffs and crashing drum blasts with Thompson announcing “Gimme gimme your sugar joy” and “I need your love” like a besotted teen shot with cupid’s arrow.
‘Hairball’ is the right blend of sweet and sour; salted caramel dark chocolate for the mature ones amongst us – sour strawberry laces for the whippersnappers and the ones who won’t grow up.
Words and thoughts of Adam Williams