I’m not sure there is a more noble pursuit right now than to craft hope in an oft-hopeless world. There is a massive wave of anxiety engulfing a lot of us, and it’s very hard not to get dragged down into the undertow. In the face of all this chaos, so many of us turn to art and music for a shred of hope, an iota of purpose. Art applies meaning to a very-possibly-meaningless existence. Indeed, music is that meaning to a lot of people, and CT gloomrockers Have A Nice Life delve into that very concept on their latest LP Sea of Worry.
In line with its title, much of the instrumentation on Sea of Worry is hectic and tense. The guitars overlap quick arpeggiated melodies over wavering chords, their tones dripping with effects that only amplify the anxiety built into the compositions. The bass guitar pummels the ears with punchy root notes, and that overdriven tone in the outro of “Dracula Bells” is delightfully dirty. Synth washes and delicate pianos fill the open spaces, while the drums stomp out solid but intricate post-rock rhythms. “Science Beat” and “Lords of Tresserhorn” even employ programmed percussion as the backbone beats, thundering beneath atmospheric distortion and reverb to give Sea of Worry a very 80’s new-wave flavor.
Sea of Worry may only seven tracks long, but Have A Nice Life pack a lifetime of energy and nuance into every second of their record. Each tune carries a totally different feel than its adjacent neighbors—the power-chord-driven “Trespassers W” plays like a punk anthem, only to crash into the trudging wall of synths that is “Everything We Forget.” The epic final track “Destinos” lets a sample of a religious sermon simmer for almost four minutes before the music truly begins, the tune evolving from a sleepy acoustic guitar into a low-end symphony of synths and booming drums. Yet for all the genre-jumping that the band allows themselves on Sea of Worry, Have A Nice Life run a thread of their signature gloomgaze sound through each track so that none of the songs seem disjointed or out of place.
Whereas there is definitely a lot of tenderness in the instrumentation on Sea of Worry, the lyrics take a far more aggressive tack. The vocals smear dark imagery and bitter statements across the sonic backdrop: the speaker’s promise to “Fell every tree in the forest / Put a bullet in every poet / Level every mountain / flatten every hill” is some of the smartest, most vicious writing I’ve seen in a while. Lines like “Find love while you’re young / That way, when it’s over? / You’ve barely begun” from “Dracula Bells” are absolutely soaked in vitriol, a tone only accentuated by the messy choral deliveries of the vocals.
One major lyrical theme that this record explores seems to be that of a interacting with a higher power. “Science Beat” references an “invisible hand” guiding the speaker’s “errant heart,” while “Dracula Bells” exclaims “Oh, my god is a god of ironies.” “Trespassers W” conjures the image of the conscience with particularly beautiful wording: “As Satan and his devils try to shake my hand, and the angels on my shoulder try to tell me that they understand.”
This heavy use of Christian metaphor almost turns Sea of Worry into a sort of Mass. The record and title track open with a metaphysical question of “if the soul survives,” setting the tone for what is to follow. The order of the tracks on the record places soft, gentle reflective tracks between the more aggressive movers; “Science Beat” and “Everything We Forget” serve almost as meditations between the sermons that are “Dracula Bells,” “Trespassers W” and “Lords of Tresserhorn.” With the final track “Destinos,” we are in fact treated to a sample of a sermon, the preacher urging his congregation—us listeners—not to fall into the traps of Satan, a final warning before the band plays us back out into our everyday lives.
From conception to execution, Have A Nice Life have left no aspect of their latest record unpolished. The viscous anxiety that pervades our everyday life is echoed throughout the pessimistic lyricism and tense instrumentation on Sea of Worry. This record embodies the confusion and terror we must slough through in our quest for meaning in this post-God, post-truth age. And rather than look for that meaning elsewhere, Have A Nice Life in fact construct their own replacement with Sea of Worry, creating their own purpose through music, and giving us a chance to partake. So even if the ship is sinking (and it very well may be), at least we have some kickass tunes to play us down to the bottom.
My Top Track: “Trespassers W”
Sea of Worry is out via The Flenser and Enemies List; you can grab physicals from either store, or stream the album online from the band’s Bandcamp and Spotify pages. For all things Have A Nice Life, follow them on Facebook.