Limbs and anatomical hearts scatter across the kaleidoscopic artwork for Nai Harvest’s sophomore album, Hairball. On paper, that may sound gory, but paired with bright colors and flowers, it becomes an energetic and exciting image. It’s about as apt a summary of the band’s evolution as any.
In the two years since their debut album, Whatever, the Sheffield, UK duo infused their fuzzy basement punk with bigger hooks and livelier melodies. Singer/guitarist Ben Thompson and drummer Lew Currie’s performances are the embodiment of a sugar rush, like washing down watermelon Warheads with a can of Surge. Currie’s pummeling rhythms seem to incite Thompson’s rapid guitar riffs and manic howls. It makes every song feel like a fist-pumping anthem, ready for a crowd of fans spilling their beers while singing along to every word.
Though Thompson’s lyrics still reflect dissatisfaction and angst, he’s taken to more surrealistic means of expression. We first caught a glimpse of this a year ago with “Buttercups”, a single which the band rerecorded for Hairball. Thompson describes not wanting to feel like a robot before jumping into a gut-wrenching chorus, screaming, “Stab me in the chest with your knife/ Fill me up again with buttercups.” While the slower, fuzzier version loses some of the original’s immediacy, it’s a centerpiece for the album.
With “Sick on My Heart”, Thompson channels this self-loathing into an even more destructive beast. For a second at the beginning, he can be heard taking a short breath before the rattling riff and yelling kicks in. He has a true knack for seamlessly switching between singing and screaming. “Dive In” gives him another chance to showcase this ability, but here he holds back until near the end and keeps the listener waiting.
Beneath all the bright riffs, fast tempos, and references to sugar and buttercups, Thompson is coping with apathy. He’s throwing his bleeding heart into the technicolor to make sense of it all. The kinetic energy between him and Currie makes this all palpable. It’s unclear if he ever gets the answers he wants, but in the meantime, it’s a pretty kick-ass catharsis.
Essential Tracks: “Buttercups”, “Sick on My Heart”, and “Dive In”