Album Review: The Hard Aches – ‘Mess’

Its been a long time between drinks for fans of Adelaide’s hardest rocking two piece export, The Hard Aches. Book-ended by debut EP Organs And Airports and 2017’s I Freak Out, Pheremones has, until now, stood as the band’s sole full length release. Enter Mess.

Finally dropped on Friday the 13th, Mess sticks true to the formula of impassioned, gymnastic vocals from frontman Ben David, tight, riffy guitar lines and relentless drumming by Alex Upton, while tackling a new approach to the concepts behind their songs. While the titular opener could have sat comfortably on any of their previous releases, it becomes clear as the album progresses that this is more than another set of raw diary entries turned songs.

At face value, ‘Get Out of My House’ may sound like a simple rocker about being pissed off with a crappy housemate, but a deeper dive into the lyrics shows David looking for a break, with the intention of finding both a better version of himself, and of the target of his vitriol.

Slow burner ‘Friendship’ is exactly what it sounds like, an ode on reaching out to a friend whose fallen by the wayside as a result of two individuals own personal battles.

‘Warm Blooded’, initially one of the most restrained releases by the band so far, which builds to an anthemic reprise of gratefulness and appreciation for being around someone who gives a fuck, even if that means occasional volatility.

Delivered via the most impressive vocal on the album, ‘Grinding My Teeth’ approaches the mess from a different angle. Despite full knowledge that he’s sick of literally grinding his teeth, the fast paced punk tune grapples with the question of what happens after all the drinks, drugs and lack of sleep are no longer part of David’s coping mechanism.

Make no mistake, Mess is not sonically groundbreaking or game changing. We’ve heard this sound perfected, sometimes in a far more musically complex manner, by bands such as Luca Brasi. However, Mess is an ambitious undertaking in another way. Rather than relying on the typically literal storytelling found in most Aussie alt-rock, The Hard Aches have created a genuine concept album.

Mess imparts an overall explanation of mental health struggles, but with a positive spin; take it, own it, be glad if you’re warm blooded in a way others aren’t, and use it as a tool to take your relationships to another level, together.

Relentless touring has managed to establish The Hard Aches a rabid, dedicated fanbase, many of whom are now deciding which of their favourite lyrics from this record will form the basis of their next tattoo. It deserves the adulation.

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