It’s cool when we get sent things. Like physical things – CD’s, tapes, vinyls, cases of beer, t-shirts, boxes of live bees – it makes us feel like what we do in internetland has some connection with the corporeal world. This week, we got sent a little cardboard sleeve containing El Cosmico by a band called Hailer, who live in Sydney and describe themselves as a “rock and roll band”.*
Naturally, I had my suspicions. Anyone who describes their music without a prefix like dream-, post- or power- or (even rarer) without a suffix like -gaze, -core, -wave or –donk are generally bands who wear shirts like this, tape episodes of RockWiz and see Triple J circa 2000 as the pinnacle of contemporary musical taste. But El Cosmico is an album that really doesn’t need a pretentious prefix to help describe what it is. It’s an EP of six songs that vaguely pick and choose from a bunch of scenes of the 20th century and end up simply sounding pretty good.
Whether intentional or not, El Cosmico is a statement on the vagueness of modern music, unavoidably oversaturated by past influences to create something never seen as living up to the ‘original’ – a social construct in and of itself. Also it sounds good.
Cold Outside opens the album on a subtly phased guitar and a vague, upbeat folksy chord progression which could be instantly forgettable if it weren’t for Phil’s vocals instantly reminding you of Win Butler of Arcade Fire’s textured croon. It is at this moment that you realise that the entire track from chord one could be a b-side on The Suburbs, or left on the cutting room floor after slicing Neon Bible down to eleven songs, at which point you also have a tough decision to make. Do you now go listen to some oldschool Arcade Fire (not that Reflektor bullshit) or do you push on through with Hailer?
The next few songs are a bit more straight played rock & roll sorta stuff, so I won’t blame you if you want to go re-learn the chords to Rebellion (Lies) and revisit the EP a little later. There’s a basic bitch blues guitar tone and some spooky lyrics that continue the strained tension of Cold Outside on Crucify The Commodore, and it’s a good song with a good story that I don’t understand, but it’s not a song that you’ll be singing in the shower. Digging Holes is a strangely mixed affair, each track not quite finding a comfortable place to sit within the song, making it a tense, edge of your seat kinda song, but doing so in a strangely offputting way.
The EP regains it’s footing in Life Is Holy, striking a perfect balance between an expected 60’s garage chorus (that never comes) and the more rural musings of Nick Cave. This is also the first song on the EP that sounds like Hailer, and while the concept behind mixing blues, western and 60’s pop is nothing new, it’s a track that gives a glimpse into how sharply Hailer can take a turn when they take their foot off the pedal.
Machine Music brings a little bit of Krautrock into the mix, opening on a faded in autobahn drumbeat and a whole spectrum of crunchy, decaying fuzz, falling slowly into haunting industrial weirdness before completely destroying itself from the inside out. It’s dark and it’s experimental and it will never ever be on the radio and I love it to bits. 10/10 best track on the album.
El Cosmico is one of those albums that isn’t anything. Obviously we don’t mean Isn’t Anything, but we mean something like Girls debut album, which spans slowcore, 50’s rock and roll, 60’s pop and 70’s psychedelic. It borrows so much from the past that it has no option to be wholly contemporary. El Cosmico will reward a fan of rock music as well as someone who has a broader historical taste in guitar music, and we highly recommend you get around to giving it a listen.
*You know who you are beardy man who dropped it off come in and say hi next time!
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