“Overthinking isn’t really what I’m born to be,” states Jonah Falco on ‘Harmony Avenue’s opening track, the punning ‘J Terrapin’. It’s as close as you’ll get to a manifesto on Jade Hairpins’ debut album, and serves as useful guidance for interpreting the 80s-tinged luminescence on display - if at times it feels like playacting, or even a compilation album rather than the work of one band, that’s at least part of the point.
A compilation album, you say? Well, yeah. Beginning with a new wavey rush of guitar pop, the ten tracks take us through bleeping synthpop, ‘Graceland’-indepted bops and a full-on acid house rave, before closing with ‘Motherman’, which rattles along gloriously while constantly threatening to burst into the chorus of New Order’s ‘Temptation’. Luckily it’s all barrelled through with admirable chutzpah and a sense of sincerity that stems entirely from audible love for its inspiration.
Oh yeah, and the tunes are pretty damn great too. ‘Yesterdang’ wears its art-funk groove well while finding space for some genuinely touching moments of soul-searching (“Fill the void with reflection / Don’t look away from the mirror yet”), while further into the LP ‘Dolly Dream’ is a subtly addictive banger that will no doubt see Edwyn Collins rifling through his notebooks to check he hadn’t written it first.
Initially conceived as a partner project to ‘Dose Your Dreams’ - the sprawling 2018 double album by Fucked Up, in which Falco and fellow hairpin Mike Halliechuck play key roles - it eventually became clear that this set of songs was taking on a life of its own. Much like that album, there’s a spirit of continuity that makes ‘Harmony Avenue’ feel like a cohesive collection rather than a joined-up sonic pathway; a sense of purpose that somehow makes these disparate sounds all work together.
Writing for Falco’s versatile vocal rather than the raw-throated growl of FU frontman Damian Abraham gives the duo more space to play around - it’s immensely enjoyable to hear them attempting (and indeed having fun with) genres that might arguably be deemed off-limits to their day job. But there’s another key lyric in ‘J Terrapin’ that makes you wonder if the best is yet to come for Jade Hairpins: “With a gentle little push you’ll see what I can really do.” Here’s hoping there’s more to come; with a record this good as a warm-up, you wonder what they could achieve when they really hit their stride.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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