Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: Innovative Leisure
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Back in 2006, I saw Holy Fuck play an on-first support show to the then-gargantuan Sunshine Underground at Leeds Uni. I’d heard HF’s first, self-titled record released a year before, and been captivated by their penchant for jamming battered old electronic equipment through guitar pedals over a driving krautrock rhythm section. The gig was short, but great, and I even snagged a t-shirt, which I accidentally wore to a job interview once.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Holy Fuck appeared two drummers in tow and set about making a ramshackle but highly effective low-tech mash of rock and danceable electronica. Whilst not the first band to explore this territory, it is fair to say that Holy Fuck’s template and approach has been appropriated since 2007, and the fact that it’s been six years since Latin, their last album, has perhaps meant that their influence is not as widely credited as it should be. It may have been a while since their last album, but Congrats finds the band on such fine form that it’s hard to believe they’ve been absent for an extended period.
Emerging after a six-year hiatus, Toronto-based electro-rock band Holy Fuck return with Congrats, an album that refines their junk store aesthetic into their most cohesive, accessible tunes yet. The group's songs still sound rough and chaotic, but they've come a long distance from the sprawling, messy jams of their 2005 debut. Subsequent albums LP and Latin sharpened their melodic inclinations considerably and had much tighter song structures, but on Congrats, they patch more vocals into the mix.
Holy Fuck are about the closest thing Canadians have to an electronic noise-rock jam band. That the quartet have managed to forge a career that's as much about their recorded output as it is about their viscerally stunning live show is a testament to their ability to shape and structure ideas into actual songs.Never has that been more apparent than on the band's fourth LP, Congrats. After spitting out three records in five years, Holy Fuck took a lengthy half-dozen more to follow up 2010's Latin.
Back in 2010, Holy Fuck were getting sharper, smarter and more adventurous with every record they made. The raucous guitar-driven electronica they were making was subtly, intelligently geared at the kind of crowd who wouldn’t normally give that sort of thing the time of day. And then, they did their Houdini bit and vanished into thin air. Six years down the line, with nothing in the way of an explanation as to what the devil they’ve been up to, the Canadians frankly have no right whatsoever to return with such swagger, with such self-assurance, as they have done with ‘Congrats’.
It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since Holy Fuck's first album came out. When the Toronto four-piece initially arrived on the scene (twin drummers in tow) back in 2006, their unyielding brand of pulverizing dance-rock had quickly marked them out as one of North America's most fearsome live propositions. Here was a band that adhered to a dogma of no rehearsals, no recognised instruments and no fucks given - at one point even offering up Latin, their last album six years ago, via the online tundra of perversion that is ChatRoulette.
Holy... shit. Chimes Broken, the opening track to the saintly, sweary Canadians’ surprise new album will smack you in the teeth, twice. Three times, even. Holy Fuck have crammed a fistful of heart-racing, adrenaline-pumping club bangers into a blender, and smashed the result through a sieve (with ….
For a band like Holy Fuck, whose very name hints at their limited level of appeal, a record like Congrats is pretty unexpected. To say the record marks a push toward a conventional sound is misleading, because very little about Congrats approaches convention. It is, in fact, an album of surprising flexibility and brave dynamic character, an album that finds the band releasing themselves, broadening their vision to encompass not just their established sound (namely, an oblique strand of experimental post-rock with an elaborate electronic undercurrent) but also, paradoxically, elements of buttoned-down pop architecture and the nebulous textures of noise rock.
Holy fuck, this band is still making music basically the same way they were back in 2004, and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a joy. Although I initially wrote them off as a gimmick based on the attention-grabbing name, 2010’s Latin wormed its way into my long-term playlists so suddenly and easily I didn’t question it. Songs like “SHT MTN,” “Stilettos,” and “Lovely Allen” hit a pleasure point so basic but also so immediately satisfying, arch crescendos of saturation and forever-in-the-fucking-pocket drums in a selfless, hyper modern funk.
The best instrumental acts make it easy for you to imagine what their frontperson might be like, if they had one. Explosions in the Sky would undoubtedly feature an earnest, heart-clutching romantic—it’s not surprising they’re as much of an influence on emo’s 4th wave as American Football. Russian Circles would present as a burly, stoic, type and even without Tyondai Braxton, Battles maintained the impish, playful charm of his vocals from Mirrored.
When they arrived on the scene about a decade ago, a good deal of the appeal of Holy Fuck came in their brash outsiderdom — and how well they fit in despite that. They used piles of outdated electronics and non-instruments to create music that lurched from brash and burning to smooth and groovy. You’d rightly react to their music with their band name, both in the positive and negative.
Let's face it, there's nothing particularly subtle about Holy Fuck. From that firewall-jousting moniker to the stomach-crunching sounds emitting from their back catalogue, the Toronto ensemble have rarely been the type of band you can just ignore..
For a while it seemed like Holy Fuck's 2010 album, Latin, might be their last - their post-tour break turned into an extended hiatus, and the members all occupied themselves with other projects. That time away has reinvigorated them, though. On Congrats, the Toronto four-piece sound more focused than ever and just as unique. The band was initially known for using an array of cheap electronic toys to create their particular brand of dance punk.
by Luke Fowler Some passable stuff here, mostly confined to the second half; the chorus of “BWU” has the album’s one remotely moving melody, while “100x” and “U-Turn” change up the backing instrumentation to save listeners from having to hear the exact same synths for 32 minutes straight. Otherwise, I’m surprised by how heavily this rubs me the wrong way. I’ve always been able to count on Tegan and Sara for pleasantly unchallenging indie pop, but for whatever reason, this release feels totally devoid of any personality or flair, which was the main thing their earlier albums had going for them.
When Toronto’s Holy Fuck released its self-titled debut in 2005 and its 2007 follow-up LP, it almost seemed like it was cleverly trolling (and exploiting) the hot-shit, very bloated dance-punk scene of the time. Similar to their more math-y brethren in Battles, head honchos Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh orchestrated an artful sound of electronic-rock with Holy Fuck, one that bristles with celestial noise and is laid out to feature a gauntlet of side entrances to jogging grooves. But the product was danceable and just cohesive enough to warrant inclusion on bills with totally uncomplicated bands of that era like, say, The Faint—which in turn probably compelled entire audiences looking on to collectively furrow their brows and cock their heads in bewilderment.