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ATP! Album Review: Goodtime Boys - What's Left To Let Go (Double EP)

If you aren't familiar with Goodtime Boys, it's probably because they are one of the most underrated hardcore bands currently active in the United Kingdom. This is partly due to what's left of the "scene" here kind of sucking after being spoon-fed the musical equivalent to Kerry Katona's nose (artificial, lacking in structural integrity, filled with cocaine, etc…) for the past decade. Below the surface, however, the tide has been gradually but dissonantly turning. So don't beat yourself up about it, there is hope yet.

Having recently signed to Bridge 9 (making them one of the few UK bands the label has taken on), it's hard to compare or relate Goodtime Boys to any other band on their roster. With dense lyrical content and moody musical landscapes set to a slow-burning pace, they are more in step with La Dispute, Pianos Become The Teeth or Suis La Lune - all bands recognised for their dynamism and precision as well as a tendency to vocalise questions that most people would only ask themselves. In short, they express emotion through commotion; "Commotional Hardcore", if you will. Even at earlier stages in their career - prior to a series of line-up changes that allowed them to become the band they deserve to - Goodtime Boys demonstrated a considered approach to songwriting. As a result, "What's Left To Let Go" is a compilation of tracks that are both contemplative and immediate, thematiacally universal but also acutely personal.

Released as a double EP, the first half is a Lewis Johns-remixed/Jay Maas-remastered version of 2011's "Are We Now, Or Have We Ever Been", with the latter half comprising of five new tracks recorded with Lewis Johns at The Ranch in Southampton. The progressive gap between the older and newer material is considerable, but logical. Essentially, they've draped new layers of skin over the bones assembled on the first EP. With that growth, they have refined what they're good at and subsequently defined their sound more clearly. More than ever, Goodtime Boys craft pensive, cinematic landscapes in a way that This Will Destroy You or Explosions In The Sky do, with particular attention to the sense of patience that comes with that territory. Their pauses are actually pregnant, not empty voids that their audience is invited to fill - "pauses" here referring the more instrumentally delicate moments. "What's Left To Let Go" is a record without halts or hesitations; there is either a sick drum fill, gorgeous midwestern emo guitar interplay or a wildly perspicacious lyric like "I pity you, those that have not loved/ And I envy you, those that will not love again" ('Callous') to fuel a sensation of restlessness.

If you've ever caught Goodtime Boys live, you may have been fortunate enough to witness vocalist Alex Pennie throw up his lungs on stage, leaving little puddles of sick on the floor and punching them in what would be the world's most unpleasant timpani solo - that is essentially a physical representation of what's going on here musically. It's a cyclical routine of emotional binging and purging, approached on record in a manner that is both aggressive and sentimental. Rather than moving towards resolve, all the anger, the disappointment, the emotional chaos rolls in rushing waves towards 'Rest' - the final and probably biggest triumph of "What's Left To Let Go". Building measuredly around weaving Thursday-esque guitars, it closes with the words "Heavy/ Hollow/ Heartache/ Rest" delivered in a murderous scream that is almost uncomfortable to listen to, bringing "What's Left To Let Go" to a breaking point. Except, it never actually breaks.

Goodtime Boys are more than just some well-constructed noise to hurl yourself around your local mosh-hole to. There are too many bands throwing their weight around complaining about the same shit - valid shit, sure, everyone has their own Hitler ex-partner they want to nail to a cross - but Goodtime Boys offer something more substantial. "What's Left To Let Go" is enduringly rooted in love and loss. They are, for obvious reasons, two of the reoccurring themes in art, and when dealing with them it is as easy to hide behind a curtain of elaborate metaphor as it is to hide behind a crowd, falsifying truth as performance. Goodtime Boys leave everything exposed like a raw nerve, and that's what makes them such an asset to UK hardcore and "What's Left To Let Go" another solid addition to the Bridge 9 catalogue.

Also, if you have eyes in your face that function to a reasonable standard you will be able to discern that the artwork (designed by Samuel Phipps - guitars) is, to reclaim the actual meaning of the word, awesome. It's worth noting here that each stage "What's Left To Let Go" has gone through in terms of the creative process has been done by the band, or somebody internal to the band. Almost like a scaled-down Converge operation. In that sense, Goodtime Boys fail or succeed based on their own merits, and it's pretty clear which side they have landed on.


Emma Garland

"What's Left To Let Go" is out now through Bridge Nine Records.

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