Half Day Mix Up 80s Styles for a Sardonically Original Postpunk Sound
Most of the propulsive, sometimes frantic tunes on Brooklyn postpunk band Half Day‘s album In Public – streaming at their Bandcamp page – clock in at around two minutes, often less. They don’t waste notes, they get to the point and then get out, fast. Frontman Christopher Sullivan doesn’t sing as much as he intones, snide and sarcastic. Running his axe through his amp with just a rattle of natural distortion, guitarist Owen Nachtigal veers nimbly between the edge of chaos and singalong Johnny Marr catchiness over the tight rhythm section of Leslie Hong’s growly bass and Kieran Gannon’s jabbing, stabbing drums.
Many of the songs blend growly Wire terseness with a sardonic Smiths tunefulness. The opening track, Give Up sets the tone, guitar and bass in tandem through a catchy verse up to a chorus that’s part Celtic, part nebulously indie. It seems to be a wee-hours fuck-everything party scenario.
Saturday is a brisk punk tune that seems to be about a girl who ought to be missing a guy but isn’t. Trader Jacks is a scruffier take on the Smiths doing a latin-inspired groove. Shiner adds sarcastic flourishes like ah-ah backing vocals and faux funk guitar into a defeated fistfighter’s lament. Likewise, Destroy Me paints a fragmented, frustrated party-gone-to-hell scenario over uneasy tempo shifts.
Madison reaches for a more head-on Smiths ambience, with frenetic major/minor changes and a sardonic narrative about a gold-digging girl. Gators finds the band reaching for a noir blues ambience, an indie take on scampering oldtimey swing. Watches, the album’s longest song at just over three minutes, blends allusions to funk and cleverly multitracked guitars, from buzzy to distorted to jangly and clean. Wait Around blasts through less than two minutes of postpunk; the album ends up with Wild Card with its torrents of lyrics and bits and pieces of Celtic anthemicness and ska-punk. Much as Half Day draw on a whole bunch of well-worn retro styles, what they make with them is uniquely their own, and a lot of fun.