Walt Disco deliver a beautifully expressive debut EP
When Walt Disco released their latest single, Hey Boy (You’re One Of Us), back in July, it only took a couple listens to be sure that we were looking at something truly exceptional. Now they’re back with the finished thing, an EP titled Young Hard and Handsome that keeps every single promise that summer teaser might have made. And then some.
It is a short one – four tracks only – but it doesn’t need anything more to make a pretty bold statement. Certainly one of its strengths is being both solidly grounded in the past and possessed of a daring outlook towards the future. Listen through the record only once and you will have no doubt that Walt Disco are extremely literate when it comes to cult music, enough to allow them to pick their favourite suggestions, blend them together, and twist them into something unique. Compiling a list of all the influences surfacing here and there in this EP would be a pointless exercise, both because they are many and because the resulting sound is still refleshingly other, but just out of academic interest I was pleased to hear echoes of the likes of Adam and the Ants, Talking Heads, and of course David Bowie, who – I strongly suspect – would have adored this record.
Yet with all these nods to the past of guitar music (particularly the glam and new wave of the later 70s and earlier 80s, but there’s more than a bit of punk and a robust undercurrent of electronica, and even an unexpected tinge of swing), Young Hard and Handsome leaves you with the strong impression that this is what the music of the future sounds like. Or maybe it is a hope. In any case, its blend of post-punk mood and mellow vocals, dance-room synth and screechy guitars, energetic choruses and airy verses shows that Walt Disco have already achieved the kind of fully rounded voice many bands that have been on the scene for twice as long can only dream of. It’s emotional, too; in a time in which the younger generation is often accused of an excess of nihilism, it’s wonderful to see a band pour this kind of roaring passion into their music.
Hey Boy (You’re One Of Us), the first single drawn from the record, is also the opener, almost as a reminder of what we’re getting ourselves into: I have written already of its anthemic quality and the importance of its lyrics, and I have not changed my mind in that respect. Here I will only add that the transition to the next track, Cut Your Hair, is very smoothly executed, and rightly so, because the two songs in many ways really feel like two halves of a whole. Here too there is a powerful chorus supported by an energetic guitar track, here too there is a clever use of distortion, and the theme of alternative masculinities that is clearly so dear to this band resurfaces again, as eloquently put as ever. Watch out, in this track, for a delightful baritone take on almost-punk vocals (and be prepared to have it stuck in your brain for a while; it is an earworm).
Next up, I’m What You Want is probably the song in this EP that would be most at home in an 80s disco night, one that I would love to visit; it reminded me of Bowie’s Scary Monsters in all the best ways, particularly that little guitar riff that rears its head in the middle of the chorus, but it’s also cheeky and danceable and showcases some very smooth work on the vocals – and the last third is beautifully surprising. It might be my favourite out of this EP, which is to say something, given the incredible quality of the whole.
Heather, the last track in the record, is an unexpected closer that allows for a deeper breath before leaving this bubble of musical madness, giving us Walt Disco’s take on a ballad. It has some Sinatra-esque vocals and is very much not what I expected, especially after that pinging, electronic start. Bands that are able to defy expectations in terms of their sound are one of my greatest pleasures, and this song truly is a perfect example of Walt Disco’s ability to mix old and new together and thread some genuine emotion through it all.
With a polished production and multilayered songwriting that makes a second and third listen more rewarding from the start, Young Hard and Handsome is truly a little gem. If this type of intensity can be kept up for the longer breath of a long player, then we’re faced with the makings of something iconic.
Listen to the brand new EP from Walt Disco below!
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Chiara was born in Sicily and lives in Cardiff. She’s a novelist and freelance journalist with a lifelong love of music, from glam to punk by way of blues and country.