26 Feb 2024
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HOIHOI - EP Review: Tahitahi

06 Jan 2024 // A review by Michael Durand

Whatever defines post-punk in our times — post-Trump, post-covid, post-war, pre-war, pre-Trump — perhaps isn’t too clear to most of us, as long as it’s loud, raucous, and anti-whatever the current thing is. Christchurch band HOIHOI are working on a current version of that definition for us with their new EP Tahitahi – four tracks of guitars and vocals, half in Te Reo Maori and half in English, two thirds an uprising, one third introspection.

It’s a well-crafted and gratifying 12 minutes that warrants and rewards repeat listening, especially at a high volume. The four tracks each stand alone, I think, as good songs in their own right. They’re complex with multiple parts, melodies that catch you — but there’s also all the screeching, noise, grinding bass and ensemble yelling you’d hope for. When it’s loud it’s something akin to the up-tempo noise and fuzz of Dry Cleaning, but it also reminds me of the whiskey-fuelled brawling and fist-fighting singalongs of Titus Andronicus.

“It’s fun / GDP / Make it your priority!” co-lead vocalist and guitarist Ryan Nicol advises on Tohu (meaning an ill omen or a sign of misfortune), before setting us straight in the chorus: “Listen up: This. Is. Not a test!” The opening track Mauri Tu (meaning to stand together) is equally angry in its sentiment — perhaps a call for solidarity against the very authorities that told us to be strong, be kind and stick together. On the Shellac-esque second track Haunter, the ensemble singing, led by co-lead vocalist Kupu, resembles a protest too. Only this time the protagonist resolves to spend the night locked inside at home (“I will not go to your jail / I stay home tonight”). The closing track Ahi, a commentary on occupation sung in te Reo, is anthemic and genuinely moving, and must surely be a protest piece on the implementation of the Treaty. It all ties in with the apparent obsession of post-punk more generally, that social problems stem from the structure of society much more than from the actions of individuals. It’s intense and fulfilling and it left me wanting more.

Lukas Theillmann’s production here is slick, but not overly so. He’s caught an actual guitar band in action. We hear the sliding of fingers on guitar strings, the ring and buzz of Dru Norris’s snare, and Steffi Brightwell’s plectrum grinding at the bass. Perhaps the music and the listeners could tolerate more of that. The raw edge of Steve Albini’s production on Rid of Me, In Utero and umpteen other records could work wonders here. These songs sound like they’re poised for something of a riot, and seem that they could, played live, trigger almost that in a jam-packed venue: you’d have to fight to stand up, you’d spill your drink so much you abandon it, who knows, you might find yourself crowd surfing. This is a studio recording for sure, but I almost wish we could hear all those things on it too – the joy and the rage, the people smashing against each other and yelling in solidarity, trying to stand up for whatever it is we’re now standing up for.

 

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