In review: HEC – WRONG LIFE RIGHTLY (SELF RELEASE, 2018)

Words and Image: Imogen Elliot

Hobart outfit Hec have been ear bashing under the eucalyptus trees for a little while now. Their debut album Wrong Life Rightly is a textured collection of low-key scunge that showcases some serious creative chops.

The first time I listened to hec’s Wrong Life Rightly was on cassette. I was at my friend’s house just a few hours before I was due to play a gig myself. I listened to the album two times through and lamented the fact I wouldn’t be able to bring such energy to my own music. The band had been playing live for a while but I guess I was slow to notice. I remember vividly seeing vocalist Liam sing live for the first time. It was like a scene in the Michael Hutchence film Dogs in Space – suddenly, the surly dark horse transformed into an arena-grade rock star. The transition was shocking and impressive. I had to meet hec a few times before I could correctly identify each member. The three of them are often seen around Hobart together – hanging out in dark corners at gigs, art shows or emo-themed birthday parties, but their aloof demeanour belies their artistic potency.

My instinctual response to Wrong Life Rightly was to categorise it as loose DIY scunge-punk – the type of music using distortion to hide imperfect guitar solos and overly frenetic drums. Really, I think it’s clever and more broadly palatable than I had first thought. The band’s debut six-track release is a strident interpretation of Australian rock and roll, infused with elements of grunge, noise and punk. On this release hec emerges from under a bushel, eschewing basic formulas and relying on the natural emergence of rhythms.

Throughout the record (especially on tracks like ‘sad a’) Liam’s scratchy vocals sound like a half-drunk growl. Playing the guitar, Liam’s fingers crawl across the neck, creating puncturing moments of rising discordance. Bass player Earl, on the other hand, offers melodic consistency with clever, subtle, grooves on the bass, while Alec’s drums lift Liam’s maudlin tones with intricate fills and quick punk-rock style kit hits. hec deftly traverses ideas and styles over the six tracks. Track three ‘intruder’ unravels like a spaghetti western – full of flamboyant fight power and weighted with a melodic crash. ‘teacher’ evokes the reeking rusty strings and melancholia of The Drones or Joy Division, while opener ‘insolent instrument’ flows smoothly between brief verses and an upbeat bridge, finishing with an escalating repeated riff.

Wrong Life Rightly was recorded, mixed and mastered by sonic experimentalist Callum Cusick at the Arts Hall in Fern Tree, Tasmania. Callum’s technical finesse stops the record from falling into an experimental garage/noise project and forges a neat balance between cut-loose punk and radio-friendly pop rock. Wrong Life Rightly was released independently in late-2018, with a limited run of cassettes, but is still available digitally.

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