Initially a side-project for one half of HECK (formerly Baby Godzilla), the aforementioned band have now long since disbanded, and Haggard Cat seem very much in it for the long haul.
After 2018’s ‘Challenger’, they’re back once again, and there’s been some development on their take on rock ‘n’ roll. The first sign of those leaps are there for all to see on their second album, ‘Common Sense Holiday’.
‘First Words’ kicks things off with a monstrous opening riff that completely dominates the song. The chorus is driven by a guest vocalist, none other than the inimitable shout of Jamie Lenman, and the band have really stepped up with the art of tension-and-release too, especially when they go hell-for-leather at the end. In what will continue across the album, there’s more emphasis on guitarist/vocalist Matt Reynolds‘ traditionally-sung clean delivery, but don’t take that to mean this album is a cash grab.
Haggard Cat aren’t thought of as a particularly political band, yet ‘European Hardware’, which has a hook of “We are building a wall / We’re building a wall” will leave no second guesses, especially with the backdrop of their recent lock-in protest.
‘Show Reel’ also showcases an idiosyncratic quality almost unique to them – the military-like builds that appeared on songs like ‘Challenger’ cut ‘American Graffiti’ – thanks to Tom Marsh‘s thunderous drumming, and Reynolds‘ noodly guitar lines in this song will certainly keep you on your toes. Reynolds‘ abilities as a vocalist still remain underrated too, with one of the most powerful shouts around, as well as infectious melodic hooks.
‘Rational’ also has an off-kilter swung drum beat that no one could’ve predicted, before it again builds into an almighty beast. It’s clear that there is tonnes of imagination at play here.
Beginning very much like something Queens Of The Stone Age would conjure up, ‘The Natives’, Reynolds‘ croon sets the scene alongside a lumbering desert rock beat before again growing into a monster of a song. Also, ‘Cheat’ contains a saxophone break, which is possibly the strongest surprise of the record.
‘Pearl’ excels at their punk-infused rock ‘n’ roll as expected, but ‘Ghosts Already’ is a song that showcases the most ambition, being 7-minutes long, and it builds up tremendously all the way through. Just when you think they might run out of ideas, there’s just one more up their sleeve. This couldn’t have been a better way to end the album, and its abrupt ending leaves you wanting more.
‘Common Sense Holiday’ is a clear moment of growth for Haggard Cat, showing that there’s more than meets the ears on the surface to this band. Very rarely does a record with such a simple set up keep you this intrigued all the way through.