A marked loss of raw anger and vibrancy.
Label: Holy Roar
Released: 26th August 2016
There’s a discernible trajectory to London four-piece Apologies, I Have None. The rough-and-ready acoustic punk of their early EPs gave way to the more anthemic singalongs of debut LP ‘London’, which in turn paled against the raw, snarling aggression laced throughout 2014’s ‘Black’ EP. In their own words, Apologies are all about progress towards perfection, and with each release they have taken bigger strides towards achieving just that. Expectations, therefore, are understandably high for their second full-length, ‘Pharmacie’.
For Apologies, tackling subjects around mental health isn’t a recurring theme so much as a mission statement; each release a self-contained chapter in an anthology dedicated to the multifaceted nature of depression and addiction. In this respect, ‘Pharmacie’ is a long hard look at what happens when the demons win.
From the echoing, U2-esque guitars in opener ‘Love And Medication’ through to the understated lull of Crooked Teeth, the blunt yet resigned lyrics of Josh McKenzie are woven through instrumentation that is noticeably subdued and restrained. It’s clever, and subtly done; a musical representation of apathy, of the greyscale monotony that can dominate an intense depressive episode.
And yet, there is an unshakeable sense of something missing: countless missed opportunities for the hushed intros to build into the crescendoing wall of noise that had become a trademark of their sound. There isn’t a truly satisfying change in dynamic until the drop in ‘Everybody Wants To Talk About Mental Health’, as McKenzie snarls ‘I know it’s fucked up’ to a gratifying crunch of guitars, perfectly conveying the feeling of reaching breaking point.
Seven songs is a long time to wait for that payoff though, and while ‘Pharmacie’ retains the anthemic quality the band have brought to the fore since ‘London’, they have forfeited the raw anger and immediacy which made the ‘Black’ EP such a compelling listen. This is none more evident than during the reworked version of ‘The Clarity Of Morning’ which, in the transition from EP to album, has lost all trace of its original intensity and is easily forgotten amongst the other songs, most of which are also sadly unmemorable.
In ‘Everybody Wants To Talk About Mental Health’, McKenzie sings “stagnation is the deepest fear I hold”. But with such a marked loss of the raw anger and vibrancy which made the earlier records such a rewarding listen, it might not be a fear without foundation. Jade Curson