Merge Records/Arts & Crafts
Back in 2018, Merge Records put out a 12” by the enigmatic Jade Hairpins; a record and act no-one knew much about and the label were tight lipped about the music’s origin. Around the same time, Fucked Up released their new album, the sprawling opus ‘Dose Your Dreams’. On the surface there’s little connection between the two parties; Fucked Up trade in the most epic hardcore punk, that’s spliced together with all manner of disparate genres, while Jade Hairpins straddle the line between post-punk and awkward punk-funk-indie-disco a la LCD Soundsystem and New Order. Over time and now with an LP in the bag, Jade Hairpins step out of the shadows to reveal themselves as Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk, the drummer and songwriter/guitarist, respectively, of Fucked Up. The pair’s debut LP ‘Harmony Avenue’ was initially billed as a supplement, a spin-off in TV show terms, to ‘Dose Your Dreams’. Rather than a ‘brother from another mother’, ‘Harmony Avenue’ is the quirky, skinny trench coat wearing cousin to ‘Dose Your Dreams’ brutal yet eclectic cargo short wearing hardcore.
The duality of the two records is fairly apparent but if you can feel the ambition and boundaryless frontier in ‘Harmony Avenue’, it’s the same spirit and energy that populates Fucked Up record, in the way it wiggles and writhes through plug in ‘n’ play garage rock, and when it journeys off into Hacienda-esque electro.
Falco and Haliechunk kick off ‘Harmony Avenue’ with a cheeky curve ball; ‘J Terrapin’ is a rollicking slice of garage rock with some jaunty rock ‘n’ roll piano thrown in for good measure. First impressions are; this is going to be a straight up, rough ‘n’ ready rock ‘n’ roll stomper. Then! ‘(Don’t Break My) Devotion’ comes bounding in, like a tag team between LCD Soundsystem and Soulwax, with its squelching electronics and thumping beats. A bit like the James Murphy fronted gang, this track gives off a ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ vibe, even down to the cathartic call to arms “at the edge of the city it’s ok to scream”. From here on in; the lines are blurred between hedonistic dance music and the rambunctious, grubby appeal of a rock band. ‘Father Coin’ gnaws its way through dreamy Beach Boys like pop but the free-spirited images are closely stalked by a looming malevolence, like the surf is a bit too choppy for surfing today. ‘Post No Bill’ throbs and jerks with a Talking Heads disco-punk oddball nature, one that’s anchored by impulsive desire, which is typified by the “if it feels good I will” coda. ‘Dolly Dream’ explores Falco and Mike Haliechuk’s kitsch post-punk fascination; with the likes of Orange Juice and Television springing to mind. The song’s lyrics veer away from the album’s abstract stream of consciousness direction for something more transparent as Haliechunk ponders “I can’t ask the question if I’m afraid of the answer”. ‘Truth Like a Mirage’ combines the pair’s love of post-punk and electro, as the song squirms with a slippery appeal, like playing catch with a bar of soap. ‘Harmony Avenue’ is brought to a close by the devilishly hedonistic stomp of ‘Motherman’; those LCD vs New Order influences come out swinging with glow sticks and toy whistles, as the song is awash with farty electro squelches and a beat that’s like running on the spot. The lyrics take on a meditative manner, with Mike Haliechuk uttering “I saw a light in the sky/that was mine/it told me to listen/it told me to shine”.
Regardless of the connection with their day job, Jade Hairpins easily stands up as a project in its own right rather than a bit of fun on the side.
Words and Thought of Adam Williams