Parts of Giant Drag's debut LP Hearts And Unicorns were glorious. From the fuzz-heavy dissonance of "Kevin Is Gay" to the disquieting Pixies-esque drum rolls, Annie Hardy's childish asides and much-quoted meowing in place of vocals, it rocked. Giant Drag were sufficiently different, and yet still safe thanks to a secure pop heart.
Beset with label trauma, it's taken five years to follow up and on the whole, and perhaps unsurprisingly seen as at least two of the tracks on offer have been existence some years, the four-track Swan Song EP continues their erstwhile template.
The title track is a mid-tempo lollop replete with droning guitar and a sleepy sounding Hardy. It kicks in with the arrival of Calabrese's drums, guitars surfing the ensuing shoegaze-grunge with two of its five minutes to go.
Whereas, "Stuff To Live For" starts in clumsy lo-fi. Hardy's buccal movements are plain to the ear, as is an awkward rhyme involving "for" and "bore". Happily, heavier psych-rock guitar wails save proceedings on an otherwise stodgy rocker that is nevertheless indicative of Swan Song's arguable lack of progression, and perhaps excitement.
It's an idea given further credence on "White Baby", which is again warmly familiar with waves of drone and two-piece noise. Yet, slowed into sludgy grunge and loose bass, it succeeds in being neither deafening nor jagged enough to satisfy. The walls of potty-mouthed fuzz that Hearts And Unicorns provided carried Hardy's silliness, which is here absent, but in losing their childlike enthusiasm, Giant Drag also appear to have lost their edge.
The final track, "Heart Carl", seems to support this argument through generous allegory. Stripped of all effects, and with several strummed mistreads, it's a pretty and truly poignant, acoustic ballad full of longing, but with lyrics like, "Don't let the goodbyes get too good tonight" and, "You don't care / We don't care / It doesn't matter", it's not difficult to foresee trouble ahead. "I'm done with that song" Hardy plainly states at its end.
Let's hope that salvation is found, and that to Hardy and Calabrese Giant Drag become anything but the deadweight their stage-name purports to be. Or, despite future LP promises to the contrary, Swan Song may yet become the signing off it threatens to be.
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If you liked Giant Drag's (so far only) album this is probably a must - a more mature sound than something like Kevin Is Gay true, but still the trademark combination of fuzzed-up guitars, childlike vocals, pop sensibilities and lo-fi aesthetic.