Record Reviews

Damn You, Ra

Like the yarn-spinning misanthrope of the grotty back bar, The Holy Soul wryly detail the negative and fucked up on second album ‘Damn You, Ra’, writes A.H CAYLEY.


?I’m, just-a working on my soul.? When he sings this – the first line of Sydney four-piece The Holy Soul’s second studio album, Damn You, Ra – vocalist and main songwriter Trent Marden immediately introduces the integral themes of the whole work. This is an album drenched in penance, lust, separation, death, grief, isolation, revenge, escape, derangement, self-annihilation and distant redemption. It’s a muddy, bluesy rock album; wonderfully dark, but so well arranged and performed that one can derive great joy and enormous amounts of pleasure from it. Like the yarn-spinning misanthrope of the grotty back bar, The Holy Soul seem to enjoy wryly detailing the negative and fucked up. And they do it wonderfully.

From the slow, accordion-drenched opener ‘Working On My Soul’, the album immediately picks up into a twisted, fuzzy, moody album with an oppressive sense of urgency to it. Whether these are fantasies or reality, it often feels that the lyrical protagonist could very well be driven to death by the events about which Marden sings.

?This is an album drenched in penance, lust, separation, death, grief, isolation, revenge, escape, derangement, self-annihilation and distant redemption.?

Damn You, Ra is a work of sheer passion and ferocity – from the wailing guitars and brief piano riffs of the thunderous ‘The River’ to the cacophonous barfight of ‘I’ll Be Drinking ‘Til We Meet Again’ and the menacing sexiness of ‘Nine Pound Hammer’ (penned by bass player Sam Worrad). Elsewhere, something close to hip-shaking pop music (the good, hard, fast kind) finds its way onto the album in the form of the furiously catchy ‘That’s All’. Drummer Kate Wilson hits powerfully as Jon Hunter’s guitar crashes over the pulsing piano line of guest accompanist Monika Brooks; the whole thing a clutter of energy and handclap breakdowns. There’s also the sweetly sneering promise of a fleeing lover (‘I’ll Be Back For the Honey’), and the more plaintive closing track, ‘Rosetta’, a haunting, accordian-based ditty that closes the album perfectly.

Not just a fine set of musicians themselves, on this album The Holy Soul are joined by some big names, such as former Drones guitarist Rui Pereira on ‘Train'; Loene Carmen, who provides gorgeous sultry harmonies on the word ?honey? on ‘I’ll Be Back For the Honey'; and US musician Ralph Carney, who plays sax on ‘Just Another Day’. As the only rock’n’roll band to be given Wu-Tang affiliate status, and having backed Can’s Damo Suzuki on a past Australian tour – they’re also about to play shows with David Thomas of Pere Ubu – The Holy Soul are obviously a band that command a great deal of respect in the industry, both here and abroad. With this album as evidence, I can think of few other bands more deserving.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I shall pour myself a stiff drink and sink back into the comfortable discomfort that is Damn You, Ra. Put it on repeat, and play it loud.

I’ll be drinking ’til we meet again.

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Damn You, Ra is out now on Illustrious Artists.