Lester Bangs wrote a formula for writing record reviews. I’d be quoting liberally from it throughout this piece, were it not the fact that the only place I’ve found it is Jim DeRogatis’ excellent biography ‘Let it Blurt’, my copy of said volume having decamped to Liverpool some years ago. Kathryn, I will get my book back one day. If you will excuse my bad synopsis, the formula regards how easy it is to elevate a record you quite like to classic status via ridiculous hype, or how easy to reduce a record you didn’t to the depths of artistic crime. In both cases you can hear the record again and barely recognise your own opinions. Throw in some ill-chosen or easily-postured comparisons, and you’re there. It’s a formula I’ve been sticking close to for years.
There is, however, a massive hole in Lester’s formula (but even Pythagoras messed up somewhere along the way), and Giant Drag fall right into it. For the formula to work, you need to either like or dislike a record. And Hearts and Unicorns is alright, but it is far short of spectacular.
I desperately wanted to get excited. Hot indie-chick on the cover; song titles like ‘Kevin is Gay’ and ‘You’re full of shit (check out my sweet riffs)’; the presence of multiple Icarus Line members (Joe Cardamone even wrote ‘Slayer’). I expected full-on freak-out punk rock, with extra attitude and the blackest and bleakest of humour. Annie Hardy has a nice voice, but it is very bland. The instrumental backing has a cute line in wall-of-sound electronics, but it is very bland. What Hearts and Unicorns delivers is more akin to the musical equivalent of a shrug. In Lester’s formula, it would be a goliath shrug of thunder, but it isn’t. It’s just a shrug. It sounds like kooky American college radio fodder, made by kooky American college radio kids.
I can’t even get agitated enough to slate this. Shrug your shoulders, sigh, and you’ve got the idea. “Humph.”