Health Plan – Health Plan

Posted: 13 April 2021 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Buzzhowl Records – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Health Plan’s all-caps bio on their Bandcamp doesn’t really tell us much, bujt it does, I suppose, tell us enough in the pan of three short, declarative sentences: ‘HEALTH PLAN ARE DAN, STEVEN AND FRANCOIS. WE PLUGGED GUITARS STRAIGHT INTO A LAPTOP AND MADE SOME POP SONGS. MEMBERS OF USA NAILS, BLKLSTRS, THE EUROSUITE, DEAD ARMS’. Whether or not that qualifies them as a supergroup I’m not sure, but this emerging hub of intersection musicians is proving to be a fertile melting pot, and on the musical evidence of this, their eponymous debut, they are a super group. And of course, as you’d expect, a noisy one.

The album’s eight tracks are an extended exercise in crashing, droning noise rock, and it’s not intended to be pleasant: this is the kind of music where you marvel at the layers of noise as they scrape and clash against one another, feedback shrieking against low-end-grooves, as reverbs bounce off one another in different directions. And maybe there is something masochistic about enjoying this kind of thing, but it’s about sensation, and feeling the sound batter your body and brain.

‘Post Traumatic Growth’ piles in as an introduction, a mess of buzzing bass, relentless percussion, and squalling guitars, landing somewhere between Big Black and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with additional blasts of exploding lasers and blank monotone vocals.

And this is the flavour of the album: motoric and messy, lo-fi and abrasive. The rhythm section holds things down, albeit muzzed up, fuzzed out and indelicately. It works a treat: the bass buzzes and booms, and the drums thump, and in combination they punch hard. The guitars are toppy, discordant and disco-ordinated, slashing away at angles across the linear rhythm grooves.

When they dial it down a bit, as on the altogether more sedate instrumental ‘Fade’, where a thumping bass beat flutters like a heartbeat beneath a current of swirling, meandering sound, the production is still such that it’s anything but comfortable, and it’s not lo-fi, but wilful awkwardness: there’s a cymbal that cuts through the mix at a mean volume, and it’s not smooth or in keeping, but harsh, crashing, incongruent.

‘Vapid Expressions’ comes on like The Fall, like MES at huis most hectoring in a swelling surge of motoric repetition that drills into your brain. ‘Stuck in a Loop’ lives up to its title, a cyclical repetition of a motif pinned to a relentless beat, providing some kind of lull before the acerbic hollering of ‘Cataract’ that drives it to a finish in a frenzy of sax and distortion.

While so many bands take cues from The Fall, Health Plan do so with real style, and moreover, take as much influence from the band’s stubborn refusal to conform, or to pretty up their sound with tidy production. To my mind, punk has always been about an aesthetic rather than a style – primarily about going against the grain and not giving a toss about anything other than pleasing yourself – meaning that Health Plan is truly as punk as fuck.

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