Formed by someone who mainly produces rather than creates music, with a cult following of a few thousand, and using social media mainly for off-beat jokes you can only imagine with a deadpan delivery, Health&Beauty are the epitome of A Hipster Band. They are Like No Other Band Out There. They Use Instruments In Ways No-One Else Does. The kind of band I would’ve gone around telling everyone were brilliant trying to convince myself as much as them that this was true when I was about 15-16. Their target market seems to be younger-me and other aspiring hipsters, who will naturally tell so many people NO SCARE (what does that even mean?) is amazing with such conviction that they’ll almost believe it themselves.
The thing is, it just… doesn’t sound very good. The all-over-the-place sounds don’t remotely go together, and not even in a good way. For want of a better way of putting it, the oranges of the grungey guitars, the greens of the synths and the blues of the keyboards and voices… they don’t even clash, they just don’t blend. The sounds don’t have the energy or substance to bounce off each other in interesting ways. They just exist in the same moment, not blending and not meaning anything.
That’s not to suggest that everything in music has to mean something, of course, but usually when there’s an absence of meaning, there’s either a deliberate rejection of meaning, or there’s no need for meaning because It Sounds Good. On NO SCARE (seriously what), neither is the case. The sounds have nothing to do with each other, and the guitar riffs and excessive solos you’re hit with right from opener ‘Back To the Place’ aren’t particularly melodic, interesting, catchy, or remotely pleasant. The stop-starty riffs of ‘Wartime’ and the muted one in the title track are just grating.
The songs also have little do with each other; ‘Asunción & Dayanara’, ‘Beyond Beyoncé’ and ‘Riverside Cemetery’ sound like they all belong on different mediocre albums. The things they all try to sound like seem also to just sit uncomfortably with each other, not talking but not blending, like passengers on a plane in a West Brom shirt and a QPR one. They’ve got no reason to argue, they’re just vaguely negative towards each other without confrontation.
NO SCARE is not an offensively bad album, and maybe it’s not as cynical as people getting together with the express intention only to make a record that people file under 'challenging' because they’re too nervous to suggest that the emperor might not have any clothes on. Indeed, it seems hard to believe that the individual sounds that happen simultaneously but refuse to come together didn’t take a fair amount of effort. Maybe that’s what it is instead. Maybe NO SCARE is simply the sound of why you can’t force innovation.
2Nina Keen's Score