Other Half – ‘Soft Action’

By Andy Joice

The dreaded sophomore slump is a real thing. Will a band’s follow-up album hit as heavy as their debut release? Will they be able to build on the foundations of songs that made their name? For Norwich natives Other Half, the answer is a resounding yes. ‘Soft Action’ not only steps into 2020’s debut ‘Big Twenty’, but triumphantly stomps forwards.

Things open at breakneck speed with ‘Like A Dog’, charging in at just under 40 seconds long, it’s an immediate introduction to their hardcore-esque edge. Laced with sardonic dryness, it sets the stall for next 40-ish minutes, with the closing line of “a bad time to be a bad guy” hitting with particular weight.

‘Jollies With The Boys’ quickly follows up, and is littered with impressive drum fills from Alfie Adams, who somehow manages to avoid perforating the skins of his kit with his utterly thunderous playing. It’s fair to say that vocalist/guitarist Cal Hudson may not have the strongest voice but it’s incredibly distinctive, and his almost strained wailing adds to the rhythmically thick instrumentation.

‘Slab Thick’ and ‘In My Wires’ are a little gentler than the frantic opening two tracks, much more refined and hook heavy. Other Half themselves considered ‘Slab Thick’ to be too “straightforward and harmonious”, so much so that it was almost cast aside. In reality, it’s the harmonies that really sell the track, giving bassist Sophie Porter a Kim Deal vibe, with her vocals acting as a melodious accompaniment to Hudson’s. Similarly, ‘In My Wires’ doubles down on the harmonies and creates a balanced conflict of style that works to a tee. Touching on the hardwork required to make it in the music biz, there’s a hint of positivity within the closing refrain that counters a lot of the albums (admittedly justifiable) disdain towards society and people.

‘Losing The Whip’ focuses on the frankly piss poor state of British politics, while ‘Who’s Got Guts?’ looks at the class war from differing perspectives, with the latter in particular having a touch of the Queens Of The Stone Age feel to the instrumentation.

Sandwiched between these two are ‘All Bets Are Off’ and ‘Doom Logo’, the former song drones like an old washing machine, haunting an empty warehouse – long screeches and slow, rhythmic drumming helps build a “this is going to collapse at any moment” feeling, creating a sense of dread. ‘Doom Logo’ hits at the gentrification of creative spaces and music venues, lamenting the loss of opportunity and the poor management from some staff.

Perhaps the most pleasant change from ‘Big Twenty’ is Porter’s involvement in storytelling, particularly leading from a female perspective, as she discusses her mental health after an operation in ‘Just A Holiday’, and the guilt of leaving home for art college in closing track ‘If You Write The Way You Talk’. With a slower tempo and Hudson on harmonies duty, it’s a deeply personal retelling of returning to where you’re from, having grown up elsewhere. The judgement and snarky comments upon your return leave obvious fingerprints, but “the people aren’t bad, it’s just the system that kept them” rings truer than most statements on hardcore albums.

Other Half are a band still on the rise, but their promise is infinite. ‘Soft Action’ is the perfect follow-up to their debut album, building nicely on concept they developed in ‘Big Twenty’. Their progressive, sarcasm laced views are perfectly matched by their technical prowess. The only complaint is this album dropping in December, if released earlier it would surely have made it onto people’s Album of The Year list – ours included.

ANDY JOICE

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