Post-punk eccentricities fuel an experimental album made under the conventions of a pop album...

Compared to the stark and brooding post-punk of their 2017 debut album ‘Youth Hunt’, The Homesick's new LP ‘The Big Exercise’ sounds like it was made by a different band.

In part this is true. While the band is still made up of Jaap van der Velde, Erik Woudwijk and Elias Elgersma they have been on the road, got homesick - not pun intended - and been exposed to different cultures and music. All the angular edges have been smoothed. If their debut album was a sculpture by artist Petr Pergler ‘The Big Exercise’ feels like it was made of fuzzy felts. It is still a densely layered affair, but any aggression has been removed for gentle tones and pastoral harmonies.

A prime example of this is lead single ‘I Celebrate My Fantasy’. On the surface this is a bouncy post-punk gem that recalls Young Marble Giants. Instead of delivering granite drums with cinereal guitars everything is awash with Day-Glo guitars and scattershot drumming. Then out of nowhere there are jazzy interludes with experimental motifs showing The Homesick enjoy keeping themselves, as well as the listener, on their toes.

The album's centre-points are ‘The Small Exercise’ and titular track ‘The Big Exercise’. While they don’t fade into one another, there is a feeling that one is a continuation of the other. From the opening moments whimsy exudes from the speakers.

‘The Small Exercise’ has a Harry Nilsson vibe. Jaunty clarinets intertwine with floating vocals it feels like The Homesick have reached their peak. Then the title track ‘The Big Exercise’ starts. A killer riff explodes and we’re off. Part Booker T and the MGs, part Belle and Sebastian.

It is clear that The Homesick are filled with a wild abandon. As the music swells so does the giddy feeling growing inside of you. And this is what The Homesick do so well. They layer avant-garde motifs just bubbling below that surface that give ‘The Big Exercise’ a harsher edge that you initially realise.

‘Male Bonding’ opens with military drumming and a what feels like a never-ending hypnotic guitar riff. Sonically it has more in common with ‘Youth Hunt’ as the riffs are harder with sharper edges. It shows that when they want to The Homesick can still let rip. Which is comforting to know.

‘The Big Exercise’ is one of those albums that sneaks up on you. After an initial few plays you know its fun. The songs are immediately catchy, dripping with glorious harmonies. You keep it playing in the background while you go about your daily life. Then from nowhere you start being pulled in afresh and it starts to dawn on you that there is more going on than first met the eye.

Effectively The Homesick have made an experimental album under the conventions of a pop album. Everything has a glorious sheen to it, but underneath that the songs are wonky workouts with choppy time signatures and punishingly hypnotic guitars.

This is an album that shows a progression, but instead of delving deeper into harsh sounds, they have gone the other way, delivering something that feels light and fluffy but has the same lyrical hit as their debut.

7/10

Words: Nick Roseblade

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