Undoubtedly a great live band, Very Nice Harry’s official release, #REFORMAT, although hinting at some genuine potential, falls short.
Capturing a live sound on record has plagued young rock bands for years; artists as diverse as The Horrors, Death Cab For Cutie and The Red Hot Chili Peppers have suffered early career setbacks that can easily be attributed to an album that just didn’t quite present them as the tour-de-force they were proclaimed to be by anyone who saw them live. These three bands did however go on to be either truly important, masters of the studio or at the very least, completely massive, and this is something Very Nice Harry would do well to remember.
#REFORMAT aims for grand and euphoric post-punk, but despite these intentions, consists of near misses. There is no doubting the energy and vigour buried in these songs, (middle track ‘Vegas’ in particular almost feels like a brilliant hybrid of Bloc Party and the Foo Fighters smothered in something a little murkier) but it doesn’t disguise the fact that the songs just don’t quite click.
Opener ‘Undisclosure’ starts pleasingly enough; the delayed guitars and a sense of urgency are initially compelling, but the problems soon show. A lacklustre melody combined with an eggs-in-one-basket approach mean that when ‘Undisclosure’ intends to burst into life, you are simply left wondering why you’re faced with the riff again. I will be the first to state at this point that a more refined production, coupled with a solid mix would have done much to combat these downfalls.
I am however pleased to say that closer ‘Among Whispers’ is in possession of a rather splendid intro that thoroughly lifts the latter end of #REFORMAT, even if the remainder of the track doesn’t quite match the engaging guitar lines and marching drums of the opening bars. A recurring issue throughout this release is placeless choruses; ‘Among Whispers’ is the strongest track and yet it is near impossible engage with the melodies as the various components pine for your attention. This EP is in constant need to desperately catch its breath and grows tired as a result.
As mentioned earlier, history has seen countless exceptional bands develop from shaky beginnings, and Very Nice Harry need to look only as far as the Oxford scene for an example a little closer to home; the now locally-mighty Dead Jerichos (a band who you cannot help but feel Very Nice Harry are at least a little inspired by), were once plagued by the stigma of latching onto the sounds of Arctic Monkeys et al whilst never matching their flair but who now stand as one of Oxford’s finest young bands on the cusp of something entirely their own.
Very Nice Harry are a band with all the right intentions; #REFORMAT clearly showcases an ambitious, energetic young band and I hope that they inject as much passion into their next release, and find the means to bottle the on-stage spark that sees them being compared to such successful artists in the first place.