A good punk album is hard to find but Audacity make it appear so simple, so straightforward and so natural that you may well wonder why so many other bands can’t match this standard. And the answer is, of course, that it is incredibly difficult to make music this accessible, energised and just this damn good.
Opening tune, ‘Counting the Days’, is immediately catchy, fast and heavy, with a punchy chorus and a Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar solo. Audacity got together when they were kids. They’ve been together for 15 years and still sound fresh. They have developed a real mastery in both musicianship and songwriting. The first three tracks fly by at breakneck speed, pulling classic punk stunts and handbrake turns but there's enough variation of tempo and tone through Hyper Vessels to keep it interesting. Slower numbers like ‘Umbrellas’ display an innate sense of pop songwriting and they know when to drop instruments from the mix and how to bring them back in with maximum impact.
‘Fire’ could be an Only Ones song and employs the well-worn “slow verse, fast chorus” combo to great effect along with its fatalistic /apathetic lyrics: "There's a fire in your apartment/It's getting hotter and hotter/Why bother to put out the flames?” Those twin guitars come back for an encore appearance too, this time for a disharmonious solo section that neatly cuts through the treacle of the main melody. ‘Fire’ is a definite highlight and demands to be put on repeat.
‘Previous Cast’ is another slow song based around an arpeggiated acoustic guitar pattern before the bass intro of ‘Overrated’ brings the heaviness back to the fore. On ‘Previous Cast’, Audacity do something I have never heard before. The first few lines of the verses are sung off key, then the last part shifts into the correct key, bringing a strange dynamic like an early Pixies guitar solo. From the start with ‘Counting the Days’, Audacity play with the intensity, if not quite the breakneck tempo, of first wave hardcore. They have the chops and chantabilty of Black Flag and D.O.A. and the fuzzy wall of sound of Husker Du, but thanks to the production skills of Ty Segall, Hyper Vessels doesn't sound like it was recorded in a pub toilet.
The album finishes with ‘Lock on the Door’ which has drawn comparison with London Calling-era Clash. And that’s an accurate comparison. On the whole, there are also many similarities to the Clash's debut, other than the fact that there are two vocalists and Strummer-style guitars.
Audacity tick all the boxes on this album. This is not the slick, over produced power pop brand of Californian punk spoon-fed to the masses with poolside videos. But it is fun. Not fun in a smirky Blink 182 way. Fun as in, it is a pleasure to listen to and will make you smile through enjoyment. The Dead Kennedys rhythms, the punk singalong of The Replacements and The Black Lips style vocal reverb all add up to a brash, snotty record that is everything a punk album should be.Audacity writes tight, extreme music but remembers that it only works when there’s a tune to go with it. With 11 songs over 35 minutes, Hyper Vessels is a short, sharp shock of tight, aggressive hardcore musicianship, overlaid with catchy lyrics, and delivered in a delightfully tuned, shouty manner.
While Ty Segall’s production may be a step up for them, I wouldn't call it a polished sound. It's noisy and covered in tape hiss. The over driven guitars are right where they should be in the mix and the heavily treated vocals float on top without overwhelming the other instruments. It’s still jagged and it has less been polished than it has been sharpened like a sword on a whetstone. Hyper Vessels cleaves through the armour of American pop punk drivel and rends the flesh of generic cartoon punk imitators in twain.