Album Review: The Holy Mess – “Cande Ru Las Degas”

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There’s something riveting about The Holy Mess. They make me want to use words like ‘rollicking.’ And no one ever wants to use that word, but it’s becoming apparent that sometimes one has to.

In some ways, The Holy Mess seem positively indicative of every modern punk trope there is. The gravelly vocals. The heartfelt lyrics. There isn’t a lot of uniqueness in The Holy Mess’ sound. They’re a punk band that’ll probably bring to mind Dillinger Four, or another acceptable permutation of, but they’re far from generic. Cande Ru Las Degas survives on its songwriting and tried and true sound, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

“My Boring 90’s” opens the album meditatively with a rhythmic strumming pattern that accents the song’s slow tempo. It’s an odd choice, but it allows for the energy to build instead of wane. This style of punk rock is known for its lyrical intensity but so often the other half of the formula, musical energy, is put into the forefront. The Holy Mess bring equal attention to one of their finest assets by putting this radically stripped down song as their opening, foregoing speed for poetry.

But that’s not to say Cande Ru Las Degas is a slow burn, because at times it’s positively explosive. The chugging power chords and breakneck melodies present on “The Saddest Girl To Ever Hold A Martini” (perhaps the greatest song title ever) suggest a band playing at their most desperate; recklessly strumming percussive chords, launching into choruses with a hungry drool. The Holy Mess aren’t apathetic civilians, they’re on the frontlines. They’re fighting the good fight with wild eyes and a deranged melody.

“By now we know these ain’t the four chords that’ll make our lives. But if we harmonize it might get us out of town tonight,” from “A Song For Tim Browne To Sing” delves deeper into what it means to be a punk transitioning from youthful optimism to adulthood. When D. Boon of The Minutemen said “Punk rock changed our lives,” did he realize the excitement that comes with change would eventually subside to another drab level of normalcy? The Holy Mess express this disillusionment with their own experiences, they don’t have to preach, it’s a primal truth of which we’re all aware. What happens when that day comes– when we stop dancing at shows, when we curse the modern scene and retreat back into our nostalgic memories? What happens when the day comes where all punk rock does is get us to another bar?

“Asleep In A Room Full Of Dog Shit” is another well titled stand out track. This time The Holy Mess feel positively heavy. Each chord sounds tangible, gathering density with each strum. Vocally, the singer dances on both sides of the line between singing and screaming. Between the searing vocals and heavy instrumentation, “Asleep In A Room Full Of Dog Shit” is one of the best song on the album.

Cande Ru Las Degas is comfort food without the implied complacency. It invites comparisons but never lets them overstay their welcome. The Holy Mess have written an excellent melodic punk record, but more importantly an excellent record period. Cande Ru Las Degas stands as one of the best of 2012.

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