We’re Still Here byThe HIRS Collective album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions


We’re Still Here

The HIRS Collective

The phrase “strength in numbers” couldn’t be more appropriate when it comes to The HIRS Collective. After releasing a handful of 100-song albums and a shit-tonne of splits, they plunged themselves into collaborating with their peers and luminaries on 2020’s ‘Friends. Lovers. Favourites’. Zip forward to 2023 and the ensemble have maximised their lust for teaming up with artists they love and admire. ‘We’re Still Here’ features over 35 musicians including Shirley Manson, Jeremy Bolm, Justin Pearson, Frank Iero, Damian Abraham and many, many more. Seriously, the album’s roster reads like a who’s who of the most influential artists that orbit rock, punk and hardcore’s nosier alcoves.

17 tracks and 31 minutes is all The HIRS Collective need to wreak havoc with their own brand of explosive and unhinged hardcore. There is something incredibly combative with how this rag-tag bunch of musicians attack this record, which is understandable given the group’s stance on being the voice of the marginalised. To whip the outfit’s mission statement from their label’s website (Get Better Records comes under the banner of The HIRS Collective and they self-produce too – collective by name, collective by nature ay?) “The HIRS Collective exist to fight for, defend, and celebrate the survival of trans, queer, PoC, black, women and any and all other folks who have to constantly face violence, marginalisation, and oppression. We are a collective of freaks and faggots that will never stop existing. Infinite and never ending. No-one is going to kill us, we are going to live

The record literally explodes from the first second, with the album’s eponymous track leading the charge. The tone, both sonically and thematically, is set immediately with a barrage of ferocious hardcore powering home the message “we will not disappear/will not fade away/we are always here/never-ending/infinite/we’re not stopping/we’ll never quit”. This sounds less like an announcement and more of a threat. Shirley Manson appears in the song’s finale third, drawling the record’s title as it drops down to a deathly dirge. ‘Sweet Like Candy’ (featuring Jessica Joy Mills, No Man and Thou) continues the million-miles-an-hour chaos with a message aimed directly at the heart of the ever-present burden to be physical flawless. Spat with acidity you can really feel the venom in “if I tell you I’m ugly/will you sell it back to me?/make me picture perfect?/tell me I’m worth it?”. The need and desire to baulk against image conscious societal confines spew out via the acerbic “my hair is falling out/I’m sweet like candy/my skin is breaking out/I’m sweet like candy” and then the demonic howl of “I choose decay” is the final nail in the coffin.

As you hurtle through ‘We’re Still Here’, the gathered troop of like-minded souls clearly waste no time in getting to the point, with some tracks lasting mere seconds; namely ‘Public Service Announcement’ (featuring Dan Yemin and Dark Thoughts), which clocks in at swift yet bruising 24 seconds. Equally, amongst the frantic and at times feral hardcore, there’s the occasional switch of the dial, like on ‘Judgement Night’ (featuring
Ghosh and Jessica Joy Mills), where strangled saxophone and swaggering hip-hop are injected into the noise- core melee. An eerie ambience and a spoken word monologue make up ‘You Are Not Alone’s (featuring Lora Mathis and The Body) first three-quarters before it dissolves into a macabre bludgeoning. The record’s final track ‘Bringing Light and Replenishments’ (featuring The Punk Cellist and Sunrot) combines the guttural scree
of hardcore and the dramatic, elevating swoon of cello. A heartfelt voice memo presents itself during the eye of the storm, just as the noise drops “I like to hold hands/I like to kiss/to have no physical contact is like an emptiness that suddenly appears”. It’s perhaps trite to assume this is a Covid-19 diary entry of someone who struggled with the imposed isolation but nevertheless, it’s unflinchingly apt and relatable. The husked howls of
“we’re still here” during the record’s dying moment sound less antagonistic and more reassuring when compared to how the album began its life.

‘We’re Still Here’ perfectly articulates The HIRS Collective’s ethos of being the defenders of the opposed and a voice of the voiceless – all fuelled by the most untamed and uncompromising sonic assault imaginable.

Order We’re Still Here by The HIRS Collective HERE

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