Album Review

Have A Nice Life – The Unnatural World (The Flenser, 2014)

have a nice life - the unnatural world album cover
Have A Nice Life – Guggenheim Wax Museum (The Flenser)

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I’m going to refrain from bragging about how much I love Have A Nice Life, but for the sake of this review you should know that a) I hate the term “fanboy” and b) I would without hesitation call myself a hardcore Have A Nice Life fanboy. Their debut Deathconsciousness is fucking untouchable, easily in my all time Top 10, if not my Top 5.

If this is the first you’ve heard of HANL (Dan Barrett & Tim Macuga), I’m so fucking psyched to share them with you. Think Nadja plus Joy Division then forget that and just listen to that sample up there. Fucking life changing. Honestly, some of the best sounds to ever grace this sweet doomed planet of ours. The gloom is infinite and I accept it wholly. This is the massive dejected pop you’ve always needed but could never find, with bombastic pulverizing percussion echoing in an empty warehouse, deafening catchy riffs, smooth black synths, and boundless reverbed ghost vocals singing about the closeness of death and the woe of Nothingness.

Compared to Deathconsciousness, The Unnatural World is cleaner, better produced, more consistent, and more mature (whatever the fuck that means). But it still sounds like a blown out lo-fi home recording, it’s just that the atmospheric tracks don’t sound like sound they’re being played by your neighbors next door. The beautifully suffocating “Music Will Untune The Sky” is a perfect example, instead penetrating your core and making you feel like you’re drowning in slow motion, watching the life dust float in sunlit water, waiting for your last breath to expire in your lungs. And while Dan & Tim might be in a healthier emotional state while making TUW than they were for DC (pure conjecture on my part), this is every bit as depressing & devastating as their first record.

I hold DC up on the highest fucking pedestal. I mean on its own DC closer “Earthmover” is the single most soul obliterating song I’ve ever heard, and TUW never reaches that level of apocalyptic dread. But compared to TUW, DC feels a lot like an experiment. This new record is HANL leveled up, everything that you love about DC has been refined, turning the genre-less madness into a motherfucking masterpiece. I had insanely high expectations for TUW and it’s hands down one of the best goddamn records I’ve ever heard. It might not overthrow DC in my all time Top 10 but that’s probably more for sentimental reasons than anything else. I know I’m an enthusiastic hyperbolic kinda guy but I say this without the slightest bit of exaggeration: TUW couldn’t possibly be any fucking better. It’s literally flawless.

Interviews

Questions For Have A Nice Life

have a nice life interview
Dan Barrett & Tim Macuga, aka Have A Nice Life, aka the raddest dudes in the northeast, honored me with their thoughtful answers to some serious questions.
 

What is the best way to die?
Tim: We literally don’t know.

Dan: Or not at all, if possible.

How do you think you’ll die?
Tim: I will probably die of pneumonia while trying to recover from a heart surgery. There will be a cold plate of cafeteria ravioli and a half eaten cup of applesauce by the hospital bed. The SOILED LINENS cart will be parked outside the door. The other guy in the other half of the room might be awake to see my last. He’ll try not to think about it. Daytime TV in the future will still be shitty.

What makes you happy?
Tim: I’m happy with things, experiences, ideas, or personalities that I can’t deconstruct. It’s a relief knowing, “Well, I must love these people no matter what,” or “I don’t understand abstract calculus,” or “This film is ludicrous.” There’s ground to stand on; maybe I tested its stability to exhaustion, maybe I just lacked the compulsion to obsess about it.

Dan: Yeah – I tend towards experiences of non-thought. Anything where you just stop and nothing fills the space created.

How can you die happy?
Tim: An assassin slips cyanide or some more advanced instant-death poison into my cup while I’m watching Big Trouble in Little China. I have a hard time believing anyone cognizant of imminent death, no matter how long they’ve been preparing, feels peace. The day/general time you’re about to die – if you know it’s been such a long illness and you’re slipping – “OK, this is going to be the day,” – it still consists of so many moments. And sheer terror has to enter that moment to moment process somewhere. Getting back to happy from terror is not a simple cold water shake-off.

How close have you come to death?
Tim: To my own knowledge, and of my own death, not very. I was with a group on a far end of the Grand Canyon, at the bottom, in 130 degree heat. I was fine, but bad things almost happened to a few of us and the panic did set in – “We just climbed hours and hours *into* this pit in the Earth. Shit.” I’d love to see a reel of hidden camera footage of all of the times I might have come close and was just completely unaware. It’s reasonable to think we’re all like those cartoon characters sleepwalking through dangerous construction sites.

Dan: I spun out across 4 lanes of snowy traffic once, ending up facing the wrong way and staring into oncoming headlights. The only thing – literally the only thing – I thought was “NO NO NO NO NO NO.” So.

What does kindness mean to you?
Tim: Kindness is asking, “How are you?” with actual intent to listen to a truthful response.

Where do you find love?
Tim: After climbing hours and hours into a pit in the Earth, for one.

Dan: I found mine by giving up on it.

When were you most afraid?
Tim: When I was 7, I demanded my mother tell me when I would die – I had just realized a vague notion of “not being” and needed to figure out what I could do to, well, I didn’t even know. I think it was actually after hearing Skeeter Davis’s “It’s The End of the World” on the radio. I understood it was a sad love song, but “end” – Jesus. Air raid sirens went off in my head.

Dan: I’ve been afraid that I wouldn’t make it out of depressive periods. I don’t know if that’s more dread than fear, or how those intersect, but. That’s a feeling you don’t really forget.

How do you listen to music?
Tim: Like a monster.