Personnel: Charley Mooney (vocals, guitar); Roisin Stewart (vocals); Robert Johnston (acoustic guitar, slide guitar); Barry O'Reilly (acoustic guitar); Will Bradley (piano, percussion); Chris Heaney (drums).
Recording information: ??/1999-09/2001.
Photographer: Desert Hearts.
There's enough dexterity and chemistry bouncing between the three members of Desert Hearts that they might have you tricked into thinking they've been mulling around Belfast for the better part of a decade, releasing respected records with regularity and gigging for a slowly developing cult following. Truth be told, this is a young band with one prior single to their credit. They might also have you tricked into thinking that they've from the States; they often sound like the type of group who would have shared the stage with indie stalwarts like Versus or even Unrest in the mid-'90s. Like those two bands, Desert Hearts like to don their sparse, melancholic, melodic side just as much as their frantic, clustered, noisy side. Perhaps the only indication that Let's Get Worse is a debut is that part of its charm involves a display of all that Desert Hearts are capable of within the span of 36 minutes. The attention-grabbing opener, "DSR," is dance-beat driven with a tangible New Order influence that swings on a pendulum-like guitar figure. "136" is a furiously strummy showcase for the band's instrumental prowess; containing tempo shifts galore and surprise shards of rackety mayhem, the song also showcases how each member is able to complement the others with economy and precision (yet another instance where the band's age is belied). The lovelorn "Crown" is the most stark of the bunch, thanks to the kind of sullen interplay between the instruments that could gain a band comparisons to Joy Division (in tone, not necessarily in sound). Wisely, the A-side of the band's fine debut single is reprised; "No More Art" contains both needling guitars and tricky rhythms that occasionally leave those guitars out of the equation. But, lo and behold, buried near the end is the unassuming treat that outshines the remainder of the record. "A New End" comes off like one of those songs that wrote itself, beginning slowly and plaintively until turning into the album's emotional apex. As good as this debut is, here's hoping the follow-up will include more of those un-self-conscious moments. ~ Andy Kellman