Zeahorse – Let’s Not (and Say We Did) Review

Thus far, 2021 has been on a downward trajectory for me — sure, that’s in part because the UK went into Lockdown 3.0 on just the fifth day of the year but, for present purposes, I’m actually just thinking a bit smaller and focusing on my reviews. I’m three reviews in and, having begun with an unexpected but wholly welcome 3.5, I then slid through a decent 3.0 to a rather disappointing 2.51. Is Australia’s Zeahorse the band to halt the slide with their third full-length outing, Let’s Not (and Say We Did)?

These Sydney natives have been knocking around since 2010, playing raucous, bass-driven, punk-adjacent noise rock. Their debut, Pools, dropped in 2013, followed in 2016 by sophomore record Torana Dreamin. After a four-year absence, what can Let’s Not (and Say We Did) offer up? Right out the gate, Zeahorse picks up where they left off in 2016, as opening track “Designer Smile” whacks you in the face with fuzzed stoner riffs, a filthy, thrumming bass line, and dbeat drumming. This sets a pattern for the rest of the album, as the heavily stylized, effects-laden vocals and wavering, distorted melodies give the whole package a heavy psych vibe.

Despite the punk overtones, the chaotic noise rock stylings of Zeahorse largely stick to a languid, at times almost stoned, drawl, hovering around the mid-pace, without reaching the frenetic energy levels that one might expect from the description “noise rock”. All the same, there is a real upbeat energy to tracks like “Panic Laps” and “One of Everything” that just seethe and froth along, carried by the massive and unrelenting groove of the bass. The band reckons Let’s Not (and Say We Did) will appeal to fans of Fugazi and, for my part, I reckon they’re probably right. There’s more going on here though. Across the record, there’s a sense of playfulness and wry humor that conjured up an image of Mondo Generator, or even The Dwarves, playing Arctic Monkeys covers. Check out the reeling chug of “Guilty,” featuring lyrics like ‘Tried to go to heaven but went the other way,’ and the feedback-heavy stoner blues of “Cut the Slack,” and then tell me you don’t hear it.

Although I established with relative ease that Zeahorse is a four-piece, I found it harder to pin down who among the members — Max Foskett, Ben Howell, Julien Crendal, and Morgan Anthony — to credit for particular performances (though I can tell you that Anthony is responsible for the artwork). I think, however, that the man I want to shout out to is Howell, who I believe handles bass and deserves a huge amount of credit. His work not only drives the record along but also holds it all together and, frankly, without that big, twangy groove, Let’s Not (and Say We Did) would be utterly forgettable. The sound is what you’d expect, with distorted guitars, heavy on the feedback, in-your-face, coarse vocals, and that bass just slapping you silly. The drums are way down and a bit indistinct in the mix, but with a slightly tinny snare tone that I found initially ok but it began to grate on repeated listens.

Taking Let’s Not (and Say We Did) as a whole, Zeahorse has delivered a decent half-hour and change of discordant, psych-tinged noise rock that I mostly enjoyed. It is held back, however, by a lack of memorable moments. After each listen, I find myself able to describe the overall sound that Zeahorse delivers but struggle to recall any specifics. No leads really stand out, no vocal hooks or choruses wormed their way into my brain. While I’m listening to standout tracks “Designer Smile” and “Don’t Laugh,” which bookend the album, I enjoy them but as soon as I stop listening, they seem to just melt away. Zeahorse did succeed in arresting the slide, in so far as I have not had to go further down the scale, but they have not exactly turned things around for me.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Copper Feast Records
Websites: zeahorse.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/zeahorse
Release Date: January 29th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. WHICH WAS A SNEAKY FUCKING RE-ISSUE! I should have 2.0ed it for being sneaky.
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