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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 67 - 03/28/02

Desert Hearts
Let's Get Worse
Tugboat/Rough Trade

Are there any deserts in Northern Ireland? I doubt it. If so it must be the "war-fields" caused by years of struggle and fighting. But hearts? Oh, yes. Heart and soul (Remember the Undertones, aye?). Warmth and affection within. Let's Get Worse shows a shifting mixture of warm and cold soundscapes, pulsating through landscapes of passion and aggression.

Desert Hearts is a trio from Belfast, presenting charming noise-pop (described correctly as "mid-80's widescreen indie" and a "long lost Martin Hannett gem" by Hot Press). Charlie Mooney is the guitarist and vocalist, Roisin Stewart plays bass and sings as well, and Chris Heaney plays the drums. In addition Robert Johnstone and Will Bradley (of Life Without Buildings, another band from the Tugboat label) also steps in on the album with guitar fills. The young lads of Desert Hearts put out their first single (on Tugboat) No More Art in 2000. Even tough they're British the songs are more like coming from out of the american underground. The press sheet describes the music as a mix of My Bloody Valentine (Isn't Anything) and the Pixies (Surfer Rosa), which I don't find to be too accurate. Desert Hearts don't have the blurred, innerspaced-out shoegazer-guitar-trips of MBV, and, well, they're stepping in and out of the raw, but more like, say, the early TransAm albums. Other bands that come to mind are Joy Division/New Order (early days), The Wedding Present, the Delgados (Let's Get Worse was recorded in Glasgow, at the Delgados Chem19 studio), and Versus. The latter because of the boy/girl vocal and the sweet/sour, kind/rough pop melodies.

The record holds 10 songs, and most of them please me really well. When the album is kept so simple and distinct sounding, it helps the album to work as the tight dish of songs as it is. No shiny lip-gloss or sticky make-up. "DSR" (with the chorus going "disarm the USA" - quite fitting these days) opens very early 80's new wave sounding. "136" is a short instrumental, with distorted cascades, before they unveil the great "Florida Keys": a "sneakingly innocent" sounding pop song, ending with a quick and refreshing fuzz'n'feedback shower. This one, along with "A New End", reminds me of the excellent N.Y.C. combo Versus (and/or Fountain's - of Versus - sideproject Containe). The quicker "This Is This" holds Joy Div/New Order bass lines, but with sudden punchy powerfuzz surprises, topped with Roisin's sweet voice. Then again come some heavy Mogwai meets Seam offensive parts. When hearing "Crown" and final track "Last Song" I think of The Wedding Present (the best to come out of Leeds since Peter Lorimer's free-kicks). "(3.39)" is another buzzing bee of a song, breeding energy and sweat. The end of this also makes me become (almost sobbingly) nostalgic, recalling the Wedding Present (Seamonsters era). "No More Art" is a bouncy bumper of a song, and maybe the most shining moment of Let's Get Worse.

An indeed strong debut album. The sound of Belfast's new heart pounding. Peace. Get worse. If that means better. 'New wave' isn't dead.

Distribution in Norway: Tuba!

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