Hard Girls - Dulcet Tones [EP] (Cover Artwork)

Hard Girls

Dulcet Tones [EP] (2016)

Quote Unquote

I first became aware of Hard Girls as the three quarters of Classics Of Love that weren't Jesse Michaels. At a small club show in Glasgow in 2009, I ran into Jesse in the bathroom, went into a full on fanboy panic, and temporarily forgot how to behave like a normal human being. We ended up having a conversation about hand-dryer technology. I'm sure it was a special moment for him, too. Ten minutes later Classics Of Love were tearing up the stage. "Those three guys have got some chops", I might have thought to myself if I was the sort of person who ever used the word "chops". But they really do.

You know the deal by now - the San Jose trio are one part Shinobu and two parts Pteradon, and across their various former bands and side gigs they cover a lot of musical bases. Fancy some lo-fi indie eclecticism? Shinobu are your boys. How about something gruffer, grittier but no less weird and inventive? You and Pteradon would get on like a house on fire. Or perhaps some raging 80s hardcore with a modern twist? Classics Of Love have got you covered. You get the impression there's not a lot the members of Hard Girls couldn't turn their hands to.

Now, 18 months or so after their last full length A Thousand Surfaces, here comes Dulcet Tones, three new songs - or rather two new songs and a live one - available as a name-your-price download from Jeff Rosenstock's Quote Unquote Records.

I find it hard to describe the band's sound without using words like "angular", but this isn't some shapeless inaccessible post-punk noise; even as their songs threaten to fall apart at the seams, Hard Girls have always had melodies to spare. The title track is a case in point. There’s a spikily insistent little riff, crashing drums, a brief squalling solo, nothing you could call a chorus. The parts don't quite seem to fit together, but it just works.

"Flying Dream" first appeared on A Thousand Surfaces, and the live version here shaves 30 seconds off its studio counterpart and feels a little tauter and leaner because of it. The song gradually quiets and slows, almost coming to a completely silent stop before building back up as Morgan Herrell's throaty shouts of "I had it all!" become increasingly anguished.

Then, just as you're tuning in to the band's off-kilter angularity, the record ends with "Get Up", a sweetly affecting acoustic ballad in the vein of "Mary-Anne" from 2012's Isn't It Worse. Thematically similar to that song too, it sounds like it could be about the same people - a couple struggling to hold down dull jobs and hold together their relationship. "I know how to work a job", Mike Huguenor sings, "you try to make each other less miserable".

Dulcet Tones then is a welcome addition to the Hard Girls oeuvre and a great showcase for the band's versatility. Roll on the next full length.