When I first heard the title track from the Papa vs. Pretty EP Heavy Harm I was excited. Here is another Australian band that are creating a buzz and making a name for themselves without needing to release a full-length album. And while it seems that, in this day and age, they’ve taken the well-worn path of producing an indie/alternative rock release, they’ve still managed to create a unique sound of their own, mixing strained vocals with punchy guitars and throbbing basslines. And with Paul Dempsey in production, there was bound to be some gems hidden within.
Lead singer Thomas Rawle’s seemingly shaky vocals hauntingly open the title track ‘Heavy Harm’. I say “seemingly” because the hesitation upon hearing the unstable vocals is quickly realised to be a misunderstanding and an appreciation of Rawle’s style develops. A passionate, straining falsetto is at first unsettling but surprisingly works for their style. It gives an innocence that is coupled with the delicate acoustic guitar, juxtaposing nicely against the punch and immensity of the chorus. It is a song with epic rises and simple falls, wrapped in a little package with a bow on top - the song is neat and tidy.
Compare this with ‘Sgt. Suffer’, a track which one could describe as “fashionably untidy” but I would use the term “confused”. Any hint of the vibrancy and life found in ‘Heavy Harm’ is lost amid a swirl of messy guitars and drums with Rawle at times sounding like a bad Matt Bellamy wannabe. It’s with this song that you are praying the band know how to make more than one good song, praying it isn’t already falling apart at track two. Enter ‘Wrecking Ball’. And thank God for it too.
Opening with a ridiculously catchy hook, ‘Wrecking Ball’ is gloriously grungey, and is definitely the most dance-friendly track. This stomping dance floor filler is followed by ‘Piper’, a lighter, more laidback song that really demonstrates the power of Rawle’s yowling. His striking vocal harmonies are comfortably placed in front of an acoustic backdrop before picking up to a delightfully bopping pace as the song progresses.
Yet another catchy hook opens ‘Ask Yourself’, the least indie and alternative and most “rock” track of the EP, with echoing drums and guitar riffs are aplenty. Rawle’s delicate falsetto that hauntingly wavers towards the end of the song is gratefully carried through into the final track ‘I Still Believe In Us’.
This song exhibits simplicity at its best. All the swirling clutter and energy felt throughout the EP is left behind here and what remains is pure and beautiful, an emotional track with agonising, tender vocals. What starts off as a stripped back acoustic piece slowly builds pace throughout before concluding with the subtle introduction of drums and bass guitar, providing a grand conclusion that is fitting to not only the track but the EP as well.
Heavy Harm is everything a good alternative rock album should be. It’s got the epic opener, the infectiously danceable tune, the heartfelt ballad, the track that doesn’t QUITE get there and the punchy, heavier track. And the unquestionable maturity (did I mention Rawle is just a spritely 19 years of age?) and passion from the band means this really is just the beginning for them.
The fact that they’ve managed to not only deliver an energetic, dynamic and catchy release first-time around but also create a sound that is uniquely their own is just a sign of things to come.
Review Score: 8/10