The chances are, if you’re across social media and especially Twitter, you’ve come across the name Heart Attack Man. Masters of self-marketing, the four-piece have gained notoriety in recent times through their escapades of extravagance and rascal; most notably when frontman Eric Egan put his signature orange beanie on EBay, garnering over 120 bids amounting to over $100,000 in less than a week.
Marketing stunts aside, there’s a thick buzz across local circles as the Cleveland outfit gear up to release their sophomore LP Fake Blood. Picking up right where their first album, The Manson Family, left off, Fake Blood is the darkest piece yet from the band, and while retaining the grit of previous work is a much more focused effort than fans have ever seen from the group.
Fake Blood begins with its title track, and a song that I’ve already jumped the gun to declare it one of my songs of the year. It’s been stuck in my head on a loop since its release in early-March and for good reason; it’s undeniably catchy on every level, with one of the most infectious choruses I’ve heard in a long time. Conversely, it may just be the band’s most tame offering on an album that is one wild ride.
From its opening moments, it’s clear to see that Heart Attack Man have nailed what they’ve been trying to do for a long time. The album’s intentionally rough production captures the vibe of previous work, though it seems like it’s been executed better than ever. It’s gritty, grungy punk rock that channels some of the genre’s best, most prominently bands like Wheatus and Weezer.
While ultimately staying true to the niche the band have carved out for themselves, Fake Blood is a maze of twists and turns that may take fans a few listens to wrap their heads around it. There’s a bit of everything for everyone, from the slow burn “The Choking Game”, to the short and sharp belter that is “Low Hanging Fruit”, the album’s diversity seems to shine through more predominately on repeat listens.
Initially, the album almost felt formulaic but this feeling soon diminished into an appreciation of just how calculated Fake Blood is. It comes across as fun and trivial, but a deeper dive into it forces the realisation that despite the facetious demeanour of the band, there is a dark sincerity to their music. Perhaps it’s possible that songs that generate laughter also dispel a solemnity and while it didn’t occur to me immediately, Heart Attack Man have found that balance almost perfectly.
I found myself bopping along to songs like “Rats In A Bucket”, and as the solemn instrumentals sucked me in, the frustration in Egan’s vocals really hit the song home. Lines like “I don’t care how long I’ve known you, stop fucking talking to me.” had me laughing along, while also appealing to a side of me that just wants to be left alone sometimes.
It’s a fine line, and crossing it risks listeners switching off completely, and while Heart Attack Man teeter dangerously close to it at times, other songs carry a soberness that maintains some kind of emo equilibrium. Its demonstrated perfectly by the band, following up the aforementioned “Rats In a Bucket” with the emotive ballad that is “Moths In A Lampshade”.
At other times, the album threatens to break into frenzy, teasing more than once little nuggets of hardcore. “Crisis Actor” is a headspin of a song, opening with the toughest of guitar riffs that leads into beefy bass chugs and yelled vocals. There’s a solo, a breakdown of sorts, and if that wasn’t enough, the Miranda Rights are thrown in for good measure too. Surely someone needs to arrest Heart Attack Man for being total bad asses?
When it comes to instrumentals, a lot of the time the songs feel simple yet if anything, the lack of overwhelming complexity only makes them more accessible to casual listeners. While Egan’s vocals take centre stage for the majority of the album, it’s moments like in “Cut My Losses” where punchy drums and booming guitar share the spotlight that the band sound their best.
Despite the tightrope that the band walks, ultimately Fake Blood is an album that romanticises our immature tendencies, arguing that sometimes we can dismiss civility, stick up a middle finger and say ‘fuck you’ to the people we don’t have time for. The allure of Heart Attack Man is that what it may lack in complexity, it makes up for with charm, juvenile outlandishness and severe tenacity. It is an album of callouts, insecurities and self-deprecation, almost animalistic at times. It’s a perennial mood, because we’re all millennials.
It’s a catchy and infectious easy listen. It’s a jam-packed nugget of fun that will generate an extremely diverse range of emotions within listeners.
It does seem simple at times, and occasionally teeters over the edge of seeming a bit too trivial.