I never thought I’d get the pleasure of reviewing Holy Fuck. They’ve always been mostly instrumental — like a slightly more accessible and indie/hippie-friendly Battles — which makes them not the type to get the lyrics-site treatment. In the six years since their last LP, they’ve seemed content to provide behind-the-scenes help and producer credits to countless acclaimed up-and-comers. Now with vocals and a barreling hype-train, Congrats is a welcome surprise.
Continuing that Battles comparison, Congrats reminds that Holy Fuck is more for the jam band audience than Battles’ math-rock. The opener “Chimes Broken” with a live-house beat at 133 bpm with droning, distorted synths building on simple riffs meant to move the booty without too much of a melodic purpose, and the vocals are buried under the noise. Holy Fuck is more improvisational than calculated, and their distortion feels more fuzzy than overdriven.
You can hear and feel the live jam sessions in this album, particularly the more in-character tracks; it’s no surprise they fired this puppy out in only a few days. Neither “Chimes Broken” nor its follow-up, the lead single “Tom Tom,” really go far. But the rest of the album does, with the Latin-reminiscent tracks like “Xed Eyes,” “Sabbatics,” and “Caught Up” putting you right in the middle of their live setup.
However, the especially satisfying tracks show an expansion in their sound. “Neon Dad” is straight-up indie-pop, if not full blown chillwave. That said, they do it well and it immediately grabs you. Even more direct are the bass hits that start “House of Glass.” The track backs off into an experimental sort of dark funk, but these bass explosions wouldn’t be out of place on a Death Grips album.
Conversely, the album’s real standout is built in the usual way but replaces standard fuzz with patience and Radiohead-ish sounds. “Shivering” starts out with clean square synth stabs and continues with church organs carrying us up the hill. It even gives us a beautiful near indiscernible female falsetto to grab onto lyrically, to shape at your will.
Holy Fuck have always been of the type to say their piece through unique ways. The only other band to combine electronics with harsh, noise-punk energy and real time improvisation that comes to mind is Marijuana Deathsquads. But they also know better than most that a good, emotionally-charged melody will stick with you longer than any of that (their Owen Pallett-assisted classic “Lovely Allen” proved that by overshadowing the rest of their material). “Shivering” and “Neon Dad” are their subscription to this philosophy, and the rest of the album nods to their past while messing around with the sonic toys of the present and future.