It’s 2022 and the world is slowly adjusting to a new normal, post-pandemic way of life. While we take tentative steps together exploring this new world, there are still a lot of home comforts, things that are the same but just a little different – little changes that you didn’t realise you would enjoy or need unless The Great Fuck Up happened back in 2020 (more self-service and cashless payments, praise be).
Six years after their first album was released, Swansea punks Hot Mass are back in the studio working on their sophomore album, Happy, Smiling, and Living the Dream. The first single from their upcoming album is a journey of self-discovery and self-assurance while trying to navigate your way to self-acceptance in the very modern face of not quite fitting in with everyone around you. It’s something we’ve all felt at some point, some more than others (hello!), so you’ll find that both the Astroturf melody and lyrics are easy to connect to from the first play. With lyrics like “these crossword clues don’t get any easier, and fuck the words they spell out – just stay what you are and light up the room day after day” – it’s almost as if the song is cheering you on to stay true to yourself, a long-lost friend that’s got your back, to stop you questioning who you are.
“The song embodies the punk-derived sonic textures that we love, but I wanted to pay homage to the early college/indie rock era and the free-floating guitar parts that are a staple of those genres” explains vocalist and guitarist Rhys Jenkins. Hot Mass have successfully and authentically produced a sound that is reminiscent of 90s college and indie rock, while staying true to their original, more punk rock roots. Bands like Weezer (Blue Album-era), The Pixies, and Dinosaur Jr. are thrown at you from the get go, albeit with tighter guitar playing than a noise-fuelled free-for-all. This works exceptionally well, keeping a more ‘punk’ edge to the track.
Full of catchy and comforting melancholic melodies and poignant positivity, Astroturf is a fantastic introduction to what promises to be new sound for the band. Nervous Tension was a solid first album for Hot Mass, and Happy, Smiling, and Living the Dream builds on that with the introduction of a few little changes, creating a more mature, self-assured sound.
Astroturf is available to stream everywhere from 22nd July 2022. Make sure you check out the video too.
Happy, Smiling and Living the Dream is out August 2022 on Brassneck Records (UK), This Charming Man Records (EU), and Black Numbers (US).
This review was written by Lara Roberts.