Cover photo by Take This To Heart Records
When I discovered McCafferty's debut LP BeachBoy back in 2014 I couldn't have begun to understand the way in which that record come to resonate me with in the years following. It was a turbulent release, plagued with anxiety while bold in the face of it, and I came to appreciate a great deal of its content while it soundtracked my first year of University - almost exclusively. It was a debut that left me pining for a follow-up, and when the band announced their imminent split with the dramatic compilation McCafferty Is Dead (following the loss of several demos) I was understandably sad to see them go. Imagine my surprise then, when I see a tweet from British band Moose Blood announcing McCafferty as the opener for their upcoming US tour. Imagine my further surprise also when I learned that McCafferty had returned with a new EP, titled Thanks. Sorry. Sure., set for release on June 30 through Take This To Heart Records.
In a way, Thanks. Sorry. Sure. picks up where McCafferty left off three years ago, both cathartic and creative as it mixes contemplative, introspective lyrics with dynamic pop-punk instrumentals. With an added member and a supportive label backing, the result is a more 'complete' listening experience, apparent immediately with the caffeine kick of "Trailer Trash," which careens in a dizzying fashion - uninhibited and full-blooded. Founding member Nick Hartkop's vocals carry plenty of strife and angst throughout, and his voice-crack inflection and no-holds-barred, honest approach to lyric writing make for an engaging and conflicted narrative. Hartkop's sharp penchant for nostalgia and self-deprecation spark on the opener, the first lines of which are "can you pass the happiness, please? / I need to top off my drink." From here onwards, things unfold in light of this apparent 'lacking.'
Three years older and still just as troubled, Hartkop and co. are more ambitious than ever, breaking the sonic fourth wall and expanding on the core sad-dude-upbeat-song ethos of BeachBoy. For those familiar with the band's complicated history it's rewarding to note the progression here, McCafferty invigorated after a GoFundMe campaign resurrection. For those who aren't already acquainted, there remains plenty to appreciate here - in both the lighter and darker moments of the EP. Respective of this contrast, Thanks. Sorry. Sure. exists in two halves - the first fairly upbeat and charismatic, with the second darker in dimension. Proceedings gradually shift, and the tone of the EP strays into more somber territory towards its end. Fifth track "Outlaw," for example, revolves around inner-family turmoil, an acoustic broken home narrative coming in at under two minutes - a soundtrack to teenage rebellion.
Across the other five tracks here you get a window into Hartkop's headspace, and nowhere are things as painfully clear as they are on "Dead Bird II," the opening guitar progression a variation of that on "Dead Bird I" - which featured on BeachBoy. Whereas that was the first track on that record, "Dead Bird II" closes off the EP, playing out in a similar fashion, only twice as heavy thematically. It's a far cry from the upbeat "Trailer Trash," the summer sounds spiraling into winter weight as they address drug use and personal loss ("dead angel please wake up safely / heroine makes me feel less crazy"). It's a bleak track, and a somewhat uncomfortable listen, but it finds McCafferty at their most honest and open. When the song hits an instrumental peak around the midpoint, everything comes to a head emotionally, crashing on the rocks of Hartkop's defensive walls and breaking the levies. It's a haunting way to finish off the record, but one which resonates long after things draw to a close. Stuck on repeat, you're taken right back to the beginning, with the option to go through the motions once again. There's no reason not to.
BeachBoy carried that same quality, always begging for another spin, and because of the depth that record had, repeat listens were encouraged. There's depth here also, in both the lyrics and instrumentation. At times, however, the latter has the tendency to lie too thick over the former - "Daddy Long Legs" an example of instrumental overzealousness. In the quieter moments Hartkop's continuing preference for the acoustic guitar suits the glimpses of vulnerability while, as a whole, the contrast between eclectic experimentation and quiet contemplation does a great deal in the way of setting McCafferty apart from their contemporaries. When discussing BeachBoy I often found myself too tempted to liken the band to The Front Bottoms, but there's less of a temptation to do that in regards to Thanks. Sorry. Sure. McCafferty has found a sound entirely their own, and it certainly works in their favor.
If Thanks. Sorry. Sure. is the start of McCafferty's second chapter, then it certainly leaves an audience wanting to know what comes next. With added polish and a more professional approach to the recording process, the 2017 revival of the band manages to move on considerably from the 2014 version which fizzed out after a decent amount of internet hype. Hopefully, others are able to rediscover the band as I have, and if not, there is plenty to entice a first-time listener. The future seems bright for McCafferty and appears so because of Thanks. Sorry. Sure.
Thanks. Sorry. Sure. can be preordered through Take This To Heart Records (US) or Monkey Boy Records (UK). McCafferty is set to support Moose Blood July 26-August 26, remaining tickets available here.