Why Aren't You Laughing?

Written by: AP on 28/10/2019 23:17:37

Gold may have swept most people off their feet with their third studio album “Optimist” in 2017, but it was not until I got to watch the Dutch trailblazers live at Roadburn earlier this year that I, too, had to collect myself from the floor. The band was mesmerising, and as someone vehemently turned off by post-punk, I was thus compelled to re-evaluate my skepticism toward the genre and dig into the new record they had issued two weeks earlier. Said record carries the ominous title “Why Aren’t You Laughing?”, and a single glance at the disturbing artwork should suffice to give you an idea of the central theme explored by vocalist and lyricist Milena Eva across the eleven songs it contains. It is a haunting, incisively relevant, and at times depressing piece of music, with the capacity to leave even the most casual of listeners in a state of profound reflection… which honestly feels like a pretty rare characteristic in heavy music today.

You may of course wonder about my usage of the word ‘heavy’ to describe a post-punk band — but this is not an oversight. While the style of Gold’s music certainly springs from post-punk, it would be an injustice to pigeonhole the Rotterdam-based outfit exclusively into that genre, taking into account all the influences the six musicians have poured into these songs. There is gothic rock, post-metal, and even blackgaze among the myriad nuances on the palette, and this polytheism has bred music that keeps on revealing new aspects of itself even after countless listens. And yet despite the wealth of variety presented on “Why Aren’t You Laughing?”, there is a very clear red thread running through the effort, ensuring that you are not just listening to well written individual tracks, but also a cohesive album. Indeed — Gold have successfully conjured a sound that is very much their own, the bass and drums rumbling tensely beneath as the three guitars quiver and moan in keeping with the emotional register of Eva’s singing at any given time. Her voice is the perfect vessel for conveying the various psychological traumas she explores through her lyricism. It takes on an almost sardonically lethargic tone (not unlike the late Ian Curtis of Joy Division) in the opening track “He Is Not” when she tries to encapsulate the suffocating grip of depression, while elsewhere, in the likes of “Things I Wish I Never Knew” and the title track, she gives the falsetto favoured by Jonas Bjerre (of Mew fame) a run for his money, first as the memory of “a small town tragedy” involving a missing child inspires in her a heartbreaking turmoil, and since as she mimics the mocking tone she has undoubtedly had to endure from men countless times during her life: “Why aren’t you laughing? Would it kill you to smile?” And these are just a few examples of her talent, as you could be forgiven for mistaking her for M.I.A. or even Björk in the unsettling tale of exploitation that is “Lack of Skill”, just as there is an air of Julie Christmas about the deranged character her voice takes on during the dystopian finale of “Please Tell Me You’re Not the Future”.

It is hard to argue with the fact that Eva is the star of the show on this album, yet at the same time, it would be unfair to reduce her five colleagues to mere supporting actors — especially as the music is written as a joint venture between Eva and guitarist Thomas Sciarone. She could probably switch to a solo career and still have some success, while Gold might also remain a fairly potent force without her. But it is together they become exceptional. There are so many moments to choose from in which the stars align instrumentally and vocally, but like on any other album, there are of course those that stand out most prominently. The way those droplets of twangy guitar seem to both follow and fall out of time with both the rhythm and vocals in the titular “Why Aren’t You Laughing?” catches me every time, as does the way blastbeats and tremolo guitar starkly oppose the light, angelic chanting by Eva in “Taken by Storm”. And no matter how many times those abrasive riffs and Eva’s freneticism hit me in the maddening crescendo of “Please Tell Me You’re Not the Future”, it never loses its impact. As a sucker for the more psychedelic forms of metal and Neurosis in particular, it would also be strange if the monumental drones in “Wide-Eyed” did not stir something in me — and the weight of this song is rendered even greater by the repressed anger seething inside Eva as she reluctantly plays the role of the victim to an abusive partner in a relationship.

“I make myself small and invisible / Don’t let it fool you”, she sings in the end of that song, and it perfectly alludes to the atmosphere of the record in general. There is a constant feeling of being on the brink emanating from the music, whether by virtue of the dark and resentful lyrics masquerading beneath Eva’s ethereal and often quite fragile voice, or the tension of most of the instrumentation. It is a pretty unique approach to songwriting to hold on to tension for so long and to release it so rarely, and it definitely works in Gold’s advantage on “Why Aren’t You Laughing?”. It grips you by the collar, and that grip seems only to tighten with each passing song, rendering the album an intense listening experience — one that continues to haunt and intrigue long after “Till Death Do Us Part” has brought everything to a conclusion. One could have hoped for some more oomph in the production to reflect how Gold sound in the live setting, but even so, it is hard to look past “Why Aren’t You Laughing?” as one of the upmost candidates for album of the year in 2019.


Download: He Is Not, Why Aren’t You Laughing?, Please Tell Me You’re Not the Future, Taken by Storm, Wide-Eyed, Lack of Skill
For the fans of: Brutus, Grave Pleasures, Mew
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.04.2019
Artoffact Records

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