If any band was to compose the soundtrack to the end of the world, it would be Have a Nice Life. This Connecticut-based two piece band comprised of Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga hasn’t really gotten a whole lot of commercial recognition, but those who know of them know that their dark post-punk/shoegaze/industrial sound is unmatched and unsurpassed. With their debut 2008 album Deathconsciousness, they created an 86-minute masterpiece of swirling darkness and depression. After the incredible experience that was Deathconsciousness, I was somewhat worried about what Have a Nice Life would have in store with their second full length album. Dan Barrett created some equally dark solo material under the name Giles Corey after a failed suicide attempt, but after lamenting that “no one [was] ever going to want [him]”, he pulled himself together emotionally and is now married. As darkly selfish as this is, I was afraid that this would make The Unnatural World uncharacteristically brighter. These worries were quickly dismissed as soon as I listened through this record for the first time.
Depressing music isn’t for everyone, but for those who love hearing an artist’s raw, dark feelings coming through in their music like I do, The Unnatural World is incredible. The repetition of “oh, I wish I was alive” on the first track, “Guggenheim Wax Museum”, was enough to set the dark mood of the album, and on “Burial Society”, Dan screams the chorus of “Cut my wrists, slit my throat, take this body and string it up” in one of the darkest Have a Nice Life songs yet. This track is followed by the slow, soaring “Music Will Untune the Sky” which has some incredible vocal harmony and awesome, droning guitar effects. “Cropsey” features a disturbing sample of an interview with a mentally ill child from the 1968 documentary Suffer the Little Children that investigated the controversial Pennhurst mental institution. Finally, the album closes with the darkly quiet “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch” which gives the album a feeling of hopeless closure with the final line repeated over and over: “You are no one.”
Have a Nice Life is one of my favorite bands, and they delivered everything I wanted with The Unnatural World. At 47 minutes, it’s not the huge, sprawling experience that Deathconsciousness was, but to some, The Unnatural World’s more standard run time may be a lot easier to handle. The rough, DIY production also might throw some people off, and one of my very few complaints with the album is that it ends in the middle of the final note, even on the physical release. Despite this slightly annoying detail, I’m a huge fan of Have a Nice Life’s low-fi, hazy production style, but it can probably deter some people that prefer less fuzzy music. Overall, I know it’s early in the year, but I really don’t know if another album will be able to top The Unnatural World as my favorite release of 2014. Dan and Tim delivered exactly what I wanted with their second record and cemented themselves as one of my favorite bands of all time.
Favorite Songs: “Burial Society”, “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch”, “Music Will Untune the Sky”
RIYL: Swans, My Bloody Valentine, Jesu
Review by Alex McCullough