Nai Harvest – Hairball

When the raw intensity seeped out of Whatever two years ago, heads banged and fists were thrown in the air for Nai Harvest’s infectious arrangements offset by vulnerable lyrics. But the two-piece set up left many wondering where they might go next. Well, what comes next has arrived in the form of Hairball.

The best friends from Sheffield come out all riffs blazing with ‘Spin’ setting the tone for an album that is even faster than their debut. But oh? You want enough pace to induce blue shift? ‘Sick On My Heart’ does just that when it comes at you.

So far, nothing we didn’t expect before. Hairball even shines in exactly the same moments as it did in Whatever – when Nai Harvest finds a moment of clarity amongst the clattering drums and fuzzy guitars to craft a track infects your very core and not because it forced its way there but because certain hooks will leach its way into you by way of osmosis. ‘Buttercups’ does exactly that with its marauding guitar lines led by Ben Thompson’s typically raw vocals and equally unbridled lyrics.

I don’t wanna feel like a lowlife
Stab me in the chest with your knife
Fill me up again
With buttercups

Classic Greek playwrights would often muse about how to conjure catharticism in their audience whether it was a carefully constructed plot structure or a few poignant lines of dialogue. Whatever the method, it was often cautious and deliberate. But Nai Harvest just attacks the issue head on. In a world where we’re expected to exercise a level of self-restraint and essentially hide our problems because “people can’t be arsed to hear your shit anymore”, it is extremely cathartic when Ben asks directly “Why can’t you take my love?/I guess I’m not enough.”

And this is the other, entirely expected, allure with Nai Harvest – brutally emotional lyrics masked by seemingly stoic sonic timbre. Two-piece bands often lose momentum because the inherent instrumental depth you’d get in a four or five-piece set-up can’t really be replicated. But the lyrical clarity, infectious riffs and rip-roaring drums deliver stunning combos with very few breathers.

‘Ocean of Madness’ is a well-deserved respite where the guitar is more slouched back and the drums a little baggy. It finds itself sitting comfortably amongst a host of 90s emo tracks when Ben croons:

Don’t let me drown in an ocean of madness
I wanna swim in an ocean of you
Don’t let me lose something I can control
I wanna choose, I wanna choose

Yet despite all the visceral ferocity, Hairball doesn’t feel as real as Whatever. OK, so that’s not totally unexpected – not many manage to evade the clutches of second-album syndrome. But it must also be stated that this album was made over the course of month and it shows. Whatever felt totally unrestrained – tracks began wherever they wanted and finished just as abruptly. Hairball on the other hand feels conscious, sentient perhaps! It’s still explosive but rather than being a result of pent up frustration and suppressed emotions, it feels more like a conscious effort to deliver “more of the same”.

Hairball is due for release on 28 April via Topshelf Records

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