Heart Attack Man – ‘Freak of Nature’

By Katherine Allvey

When a band’s write-ups include the words “comedy” or “humour”, it’s enough to make you a little nervous.  It could be light-hearted gold or, equally as plausibly, it could be Fat Mike’s awkward drug clown character. Heart Attack Man’s humour is different, the kind that’s in the memes your friends post that make you a little worried for their mental state. It’s the millennial urge to laugh at the ridiculous ruins of the world because what else can you do, really? The Cleveland, Ohio outfit make music for the first generation to grow up online, but that’s just the ethos; musically, this is the third is a line of razor sharp citric albums with their roots in the hardcore and pop punk scenes. The only thing with a bigger bite than the lyrics are the venomous fangs of the guitar hooks. 

Take the first single drop, ‘Like a Kennedy’, for instance. Opening with a clip of the aftermath of the 1963 assassination, vocalist Eric Egan implores the universe to “take me out like a Kennedy” over a melodic crashing guitar like watching a car crash in slow motion. The darkness here isn’t oppressive, and while yes, the theme is to wish for a dramatic death, the gorgeous tinkling notes that lurk in the background keep the sunlight shining. Similarly, ‘Late For The Orgy’, which channels the Eels via millennial existential dread, is pulled out of the swamp of misery by a rollercoaster guitar which loops and whirls overhead. Egan ponders “What am I doing here? Why am I like this?” before letting the bass power his resolution to ‘give a shit’ again. 

Above all, Heart Attack Man is a very intelligent band, which is fortunate otherwise their dark take on the world would come across as mean-spirited. ‘Stick Up’ is a fantastic twisting of conventions: who’d expect a song with “everybody get down” and a little rap breakdown would be a monologue about bank robbery rather than a party anthem? It’s like minimal colourful bunting, or police tape floating in the breeze, with drums muted as if coming through a second hand radio. ‘Clown School’ must be the kind of institution which would produce Pennywise or the Joker rather than a conventional entertainer, signified by the jaded, deadpan laughter on the bridge like gunshots. The closing nihilistic beat drifts aimlessly into FOMO anthem ‘See You On The Other Side’, set to a gentler acoustic guitar while the bass rages in a thunderstorm above.  Finishing the album with the line “it’s all over” is genius, as is bookending the record with more contemplative songs. If you allow the album to loop on repeat it seems to make a point about the repetition of life and allows the sonic weather patterns to coalesce between dentist drill melodies, demolition bass and a drumbeat like raindrops.   

“You’ve gotta be professional / The way you’re acting’s unacceptable,” shouts Egan on ‘Freak Of Nature’, a song that reclaims the 90s rock diss of choice and owes more than a little to the Offspring. They don’t always put their dissatisfaction with the modern world in a thoughtful, poetic way (preferring instead to stick to word games or, indeed, just by saying exactly what’s on their mind) but their music shines with the kind of good, old fashioned pop-punk brilliance that the average millennial will remember from their younger years. Ignore any of the headlines that link these guys with controversy: Heart Attack Man is a band with a dark sense of humour and the lyrical passion to manipulate, as well as the musical chops to make absolutely the right kind of tunes that can outrun the dullards in the scene. 

KATE ALLVEY

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