Hearts and Unicorns
Though Giant Drag are a duo- Anne Hardy on guitar and vocals and (the departed) Micah Calabrese on drums and miscellany- they don’t hew to the self-restraints imposed by a White Stripes or Kills, multitracking guitar all over the place, adding bass and keyboards at will and even flourishes like horns to “Blunt Picket Fence.” Hardy’s vocals have this hazy, tossed-off feel to them that well avoids any cringeisms, bad poetry or charges of trying too hard — she sounds like she studied from the best: Hatfield, Timony, Lorson, Butcher, Marshall. Which then obscures some of the bestest brattiest, fuck-you-iest, put-down lyrics since Lou Reed decided to put on makeup and substitute speed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like using solid waves of tone and pulse that sound like whalesongs to obscure the sentiments of “My Dick Sux.” So the prevailing aesthetic is abstract, splattered waves and swells of feedbacking sound that the early Nineties shoegazers pioneered, but with truckloads of rude/smart pop savvy.
“Kevin Is Gay” mines this sort of Juliana Hatfield-meets-space-rock vibe, full of sinewave fuzz pedal abuse and a soaring coda of faked kitten meows — I like it. Feels like a single, if those even exist anymore. In fact, I’m seeing quite a few of parallels with early (mighty) Helium and Madder Rose’s peerless first album Bring It Down. In fact, moments like Vicodin-downer “Cordial Invitation” sound almost like a recasting of Madder Rose’s Velvet Underground-meets-Phil-Spector-meets-goth/Kendra Smith aesthetic for a new generation. And I doubt it’s anything but coincidental, as these sounds are still pretty marginalized and new even after all these years. “This Isn’t It” picks up the pace — my god this would have been perfect for 120 Minutes once.
“YFLMD” is a narcotized T-Rexian zombie stomp with some yowza lyrics. “Hearts and Unicorns” is definitely a product of a different time, and I don’t mind that in an oh-so-charmingly-retro kinda way, it’s in no way a throwback, it’s just that this song’s spiritual antecedents are firmly rooted in that early ’90s/late ’80s time right before grunge, when 4AD, Jesus and Mary Chain, Love and Rockets and Pixies roamed the earth like giants and waves of guitar fuzz and crackle blanketed the land like a gently falling snow. Blake Babies, PJ Harvey, Luna, Dinosaur Jr, Mazzy Star, Breeders — oh my fucking god, it all comes flooding back. Why’d it ever go away?
“High Friends in Places” has this gorgeous plaintiveness to the guitar and vocals on the chorus, before disappearing into a fog of protective distortion on the verses. Here’s to defeat. “You’re So Full of Shit (Check out my Sweet Riffs)” stands out amongst the many upbeat numbers, swingin’ like Cramps, girl groups, sweet self-harmonizing from Hardy. One of the dudes from Icarus Line contributes a tune called “Slayer” which reminds me of New Order (especially “Regret”); it’s good, catchy, but with a black, black heart. And to close things out, there’s some hidden track weirdness and fucking around; I’d almost be disappointed if there weren’t.
Giant Drag: www.giantdrag.com