Happy Hate Me Nots

Time and the State

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Never thought we'd see a sophomore Happy Hate Me Nots album, let alone one this good from the get-go. First they re-formed in 2006 after 15 years missing, while compiling an exhaustive 41-track, double-CD Aussie anthology The Good That's Been Done (every track from their two great EPs, seven singles, lone LP -- 1988's Rob Younger of Radio Birdman and New Christs-produced Out -- plus tons of unreleased goodies. Now the zippy Sydney rockers come back strong on Time; their first record in two decades, it's a triumphant, true follow-up to their last, best, 1991 mini-LP A Place to Live. Frontman Paul Berwick always had the big time, stick-to-the-ribs tunes -- as he really had to, given his terra firma in a 1979-1980 All Mod Cons (the Jam), "What Do You Know" (Buzzcocks), and Jeopardy (the Sound) style, albeit crispy/crunchy, open-ended, driving, and infectious. Nothing has changed: from the opening "Son of a Star," Berwick tests his upper range á la old joys like "Don't Move Too Far" showing no wear. The ringing guitars pulsing in "Today" and closing "Foggy River," striking "Find the Time," and Birdman/Lime Spiders-slamming "Wait," and "I Want to Go" similarly rip-roar anew through a familiar, biting, post-Saints post-punk pop pulse they helped establish Down Under with God, Trilobites, Stems, and Eastern Dark, etc. And for balance, Berwick's bunch try hyper funk and spacey folk tracks while evoking Blue Öyster Cult razzle-dazzle on the classic rock-nodding "Our Space." Absolutely gripping.