The Witnesses, ‘Hard Up EP’ (Howler Records)

By: Ros Blair

Sandwiched delicately between their 2004 debut Tunnel Vision and Black Eyes, White Lies — a forthcoming full-length release slated for February 2006 — Hard Up is not a meal in itself but more a sorbet to cleanse the palette between courses. It reassures us that the raven-haired heroes are alive and well and still exploiting variations on a theme: Keith Richards’ Satanic years.

Featuring a total of five tracks (three previously unreleased and two in advance of the new album) Hard Up rumbles merrily forth, cataloguing various relationship and interpersonal issues amid the smog-heavy rhythms of the city. That’s where one’s emotional struggles gain much more gravity; feelings reach fever pitch quicker when confined under a canopy of skyscrapers. The form remains promising from the slightly threatening “We’re Taking Over” to the perennially pertinent title track, which stuffs listeners deep down like shrapnel in your back pocket.

Beautiful Bonnie’s curlicue filled vocals are more and more reminiscent of Shirley Temple, which explains her steadily growing fan base of boys who profess the overwhelming urge to take her home, feed her soup, brush her hair and give her lollipops, (probably). Momentum dips with the average “Everybody and Split Personality,” featured here more as a testament to their now infamous live performances, but joyfully, a change of pace that brings the EP to a satisfying end. The closing song, “Trouble,” is a superb mid-tempo acoustic and caustic tale of foreboding based on the axiom that you cannot run away from your troubles.

All in all, a good effort, although most will save their enthusiasm for the release of Black Eyes. If you are a hardcore fan, however, do bear in mind that this is a limited release so you’ll need to snap it up quickly, as no doubt you will, you efficient bastards.

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