Time changes us all. As people we are bound to the rules of time and how it moves regardless of whether we want it to or not. Music changes us. However, the rules surrounding how music moves us is on a different scale to that of time - one piece of music will affect ten people differently. Have a Nice Life have changed. As people and as musicians. Where 2008s debut, Deathconsciousness was more of a whispered secret than a fully-fledged realisation of a sound, 2019s Sea of Worry was already being discussed months in advance, thanks in no small part to Have a Nice Life’s emotionally destructive performance of their debut at the 2019 edition of the renowned Roadburn Festival and the sense that after almost two decades together, the duo of Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga had finally arrived.
Deathconsciousness was, and still is, an important record for anyone who has had the good fortune to discover it and the effects-driven walls of sound found within are still as hard-hitting today as they were in 2008, perhaps even more so as the world edges closer to catastrophe and our place in it seems ever more uncertain. Sea of Worry, though, sees the band moving away from the suicidal ideation of Deathconsciousness and towards the fact that the two people involved have grown, formed families and learned (a little) about how to cope with overwhelming feelings and times of depression, yet now have a multitude of other anxieties to cope with.
The post-punk sheen of their previous work is given space to breathe on this new record, and where long-form songs and ambient overlays made up much of their first album, Sea of Worry is a more streamlined affair with the title track opening the album on defiant drumbeats and Barrett’s slightly spoken, kind of sung delivery of the lyrics giving a sound that wouldn’t be out of place on some classic 80s records. It’s this evolution and understanding of how to structure songs and in turn make more of an impact on the listener that impresses the most with the Have a Nice Life of today. “Dracula Bells” follows and while the melancholy is ramped up, the melody doesn’t suffer and instead the disturbingly upbeat songs manages to turn sadness into something beautiful.
Sea of Worry is significantly more polished than Deathconsciousness and is a step up from the sounds of 2014s The Unnatural World, and through the burden of being more well known comes the expectation that the music, as a whole, should sound “better.” The bedroom recordings of the debut are but a distant memory when you hear the electronic pulses of “Science Beat” or the carefully constructed fuzzy guitars of “Trespassers W,” however, the essence of Have a Nice Life is not forgotten and the lyrics pay tribute to a changing outlook, fascinations with cults and the knowledge that somehow, there is a way through. Time changes us all. Sadness evolves.
8.0 / 10
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