Having switched out their male half a couple of times, Californian duo Giant Drag are back in their original and righteous state after a three-year break from releasing. The long promised Swan Song EP opens with its title track, a moody fuzzball of repetitive sliding guitar sounds that instantly recall Sonic Youth, providing the perfect base for singer and lead songwriter Annie Hardy to slur her cutesy melodies all over. The cutthroat comedy heard on 2006′s debut album Hearts & Unicorns and in their hilarious live monologues is still prominent, however, and with Hardy’s slightly bitter twang and Micah Calabrese’s thick bass synths, not all four songs are as delicate.
‘Stuff To Live For’ is nihilistic in its optimism, almost bittersweet, and the energetic build up sweats with aggression. A timely reminder of how Giant Drag used to properly rock hard, it maintains a state of heightened angst for a good part of the song, before dying off in the outro. Hardy sings honestly, allowing the truth in her words to speak for itself, giving the song an exciting edge that feels rare and different. And when her dirty, thick guitar grunts into ‘White Baby’, emo hearts will instantly fill with appreciative joy. Dark, depressing, but somehow uplifting, the guitar work is exceptional, meandering through riffs, solos and atmospheric drones.
The only pause for breath comes with final track ‘Heart Carl’, which, although nicely exhibits the bands subtlety, is a kind of token gesture and seems to sink in its overly sensitive instrumentation. That said, it’s nice to be able to pick out the intricacies of Hardy’s voice, those tiny eccentric expressions leaping around her contours. Four songs for a three year wait isn’t much, but the Swan Song EP is at least a promising taster for the forthcoming album.
[Megaforce; February 16, 2010]