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Marry Me Tonight

HTRK

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Album Review

HTRK's debut, Nostalgia, was a swirling lo-fi rock deconstruction with a life of its own. Embedded in its impenetrable wall of noise, the influences seemed to be shoegazer dreaminess, fractured art rock, and druggy minimalism. Their second long-playing effort, Marry Me Tonight, with its dynamic and more professional production techniques, makes the group's intentions much clearer and unfortunately strips away some of the intensity of the debut while revealing some deficiencies in pacing and vocal delivery. That's not to say the album isn't drenched in the bored agitation and moodiness that many listeners found compelling on Nostalgia. Co-producers Lindsay Gravina and Rowland S. Howard, a former guitar feedback god in his days with Nick Cave in the Birthday Party, apply enough separation in the mix to add ominous dynamics while still allowing Nigel Yang's guitars and Sean Stewart's bass and electronics to squall away madly. The best tracks here, opener "Ha" and the quite accessible "Fascinator," happen to be the ones that most prominently feature the Suicide-like drum machine and the most impassioned efforts from vocalist Jonnine Standish. There's just something about the way Yang's shards of feedback explode against the drum machine's incessant throb that smacks of cool. Both its title and its electro-rock atmosphere make "Fascinator" reminiscent of Depeche Mode, though none of Dave Gahan or Martin Gore's studio vocal efforts have felt as icy and detached as Standish. This detachment has a tendency, though, to make the remainder of the tracks less interesting. Some Australian media outlets have questioned if and how much the trio members rely on drugs to craft their art, and that question arises with the album, too, as Standish frequently seems lost in a haze. She even sings about a "drug starting to make me feel" on "Waltz Real Slow." One wonders if there's a bit of Spacemen 3 behavior going on. Are they "taking drugs to make music to take drugs to?" The chemical crowd listeners won't care one way or another, but Standish seems to throw away many tracks by either being too bored or trying to seem bored. The level of detachment is so high it could be mistaken for laziness. At least when Howard and company administer a bit of effects to her voice on "She's Seventeen," there's the impression of variation and swagger. Marry Me Tonight is a decent album that sometimes drifts a little far toward being dull. When they're kicking on all cylinders, HTRK make fiercely compelling music, but there's a sense on quite a few of these songs that they're coasting along rather than attacking their roles, primarily when it comes to Standish's vocals.

Biography

Formed: 2003 in Melbourne, Australia

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Originated in Melbourne, art rock project HTRK — pronounced "Hate Rock" and also known as Hate Rock Trio — began performing in 2003. After their former group, Portraits of Hugo Perez, disbanded, bassist Sean Stewart and guitarist Nigel Yang recruited vocalist Jonnine D with aims to create a project like the Birthday Party with slow mechanical repetition (courtesy of a drum machine and Jonnine playing percussion), simplistic basslines, and deafening guitar feedback. Their aesthetic clashed...
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Marry Me Tonight, HTRK
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