The Hickey Underworld – I’m Under The House, I’m Dying (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
TWO years have passed since Belgium’s The Hickey Underworld dropped their eponymous debut album but their comeback offers pretty much more of the same.
That is to say, crunching, full-throttle songs that merge hardcore, punk and alternative rock to hit-and-miss effect. On occasion, their energy is infectious in a raw, booze-soaked, utterly rough and ready kind of way. But rather like the party that never ends, you end up feeling fatigued come the end of it.
Things begin promisingly enough with the crash-bang-wallop of Untitled, a pile-driver of a record that stretches Younes Faltakh’s vocals to breaking point. It’s got a gutsy chorus, a vaguely Strokes-style vibe and manages to remain the right side of radio friendly.
But if you thought that was an intense beginning, then they get even heavier and faster on Whistling, a riotous rock opera that threatens to outdo Muse for grandiose delivery.
The fuzzy opening of Year of the Rat suggests something good, too, before settling for a more straight-forward hardcore track.
Indeed, it’s not until the grunge epic that is The Frog that things get good again… the track’s insistent hooks, early ‘90s flavourings and captivating guitar hooks adding up to an edgy, dirty, seductive track that the album could have benefitted from a lot more of.
There’s another surprise in store during the album’s obligatory ‘slow one’… Martian’s Cave hinting at some trippy tendencies lyrically while stripping things right back to a loose guitar strum and a softer vocal. It’s surprisingly effective in showcasing a more sensitive side to the band and, again, if there were more moments like this and Pure Hearts In Mud (another slow-build moment with grunge tendencies) they would arguably broaden their appeal.
Mostly, though, it’s about degrees of heat. Overfiend cranks this back up to the max without really doing anything interesting along the way, Space Barrio has a post-punk energy that gets the toes tapping but is arguably a little too post-Strokes, and I’m Under The Bed, I’m Dying ends things as loudly as they began. Yet by that time, the novelty has worn off somewhat.
Hence, while marginally better than their debut offering, this sophomore record is only just above average and perhaps all the more frustrating for it given that the moments that do succeed really suggest that a better band is still developing.
Download picks: Untitled, The Frog, Martian’s Cave, Pure Hearts in Mud