Say Psych: Album Review: The Gluts – Ungrateful Heart

The Breakdown

The Gluts stated from their inception that they weren’t afraid to push the boundaries and nowhere is that clearer Ungrateful Heart; from powerful political messages to clever manipulation of genres – these guys know what they are doing and they do it LOUD.

Out now on Fuzz Club Records, Ungrateful Heart is the fourth album from Milan-based group The Gluts. Whilst their previous releases traded in an explosive psychedelic noise-rock, Ungrateful Heart sees the Italian four-piece hone in a more post-punk-indebted sound. Although no less abrasive and confrontational in its utilising of ear-piercing feedback and hard-hitting riffs, the band say that the songs here primarily take cues from the likes of Fugazi, Gang of Four, the PiL-Pistols canon and the Campana brothers’ long adoration of Italian and American hardcore punk. The album arrives off the back of 2019’s Dengue Fever Hypnotic Trip LP and tours and festival dates around the UK, Europe and South Africa.

Laid down over a tireless week living side by side and working in the studio around the clock, The Gluts – comprised of Claudia Cesana (bass/vocals), Bruno Bassi (drums) and Nicolò and Marco Campana (vocals/synths and guitar, respectively) – recorded Ungrateful Heart with Dutch producer and close collaborator Bob de Wit (A Place To Bury Strangers, Gnod, The Sonics). On the sessions, the intensity of which is mirrored in the fierce uncompromising attitude of the music itself, the band said: “Bob’s contribution to this album was essential. He pushed us beyond our limits. It was difficult, we can’t hide it, but it really was worth it.” Over the course of their three previous albums (2014’s Warsaw, 2017’s Estasi and 2019’s Dengue Fever Hypnotic Trip), The Gluts’ brand of psychedelic noise rock has long been rooted in a punk spirit and energy but on Ungrateful Heart they dive headfirst into that side of their sound.

Opener ‘Mashilla’ starts with an intense dose of noisy chaos, including uncompromising vocal screams and relentless drums and a booming bassline. It transcends however into a much softer, melody driven entity that has you questioning whether you are listening to the same track. It’s got The Gluts stamped all over it, and it stomps right in your face. ‘Love Me Do Again’ introduces us to a different side of the band deeply rooted in influences from 70s punk and comparisons to the vocal cadence of a certain Mr Smith won’t be lost her. Penned by drummer Bruno Bassi whilst in lockdown, ‘Love Me Do Again’ was inspired by “an unexpected excitement caused by imagining how great it would be to be all together again.” Elsewhere, ‘Black Widow’ is driven by an unrelenting post-punk bassline and, true to form, builds itself into a tinnitus-inducing blast of noise. Written against the backdrop of the murder of George Floyd and the international unrest that followed, ‘Breath’ and its sinister groove and snarling vocals are shot through with a contempt for systemic racial violence and police brutality. ‘Layla, Lazy Girl From The Moon’ is a curveball; a sublime, slow-burning dream pop number that is the work of bassist Claudia Cesana, whose original version of the song was a simple solo phone recording sent around to the band that was “so beautiful that both us and Bob de Wit were tempted to keep it for the album.” 

‘Something Surreal’ is exactly that, with an overall upbeat countenance that is buried in lashings of fuzz and could easily be mistaken for being from another time altogether. ‘Ciotola di Santana’ continues with the surprises, with a hypnotic guitar combination that is mesmeric and sucks you deep into the track, only for Nicolo’s vocals to rip you open. ‘Bye Bye Boy’ completes this unholy noise trinity whilst channelling some traditional influences, made afresh in a way only The Gluts know how; think 70s New York here and you’ll hear it immediately. On the album is some of The Gluts’ most unapologetically political work to date; the rallying anti-fascist punk of ‘FYBBD’ sees Nicolò repeatably yell ‘If you’re a fascist you better be dead!’ over razor-sharp guitars. The band said of the two tracks: “Breath and FYBBD are two very different songs but their common denominator is in the lyrics’ socio-political valence. The former is inspired by the infamous event of George Floyd’s death and the latter is a burst of anger towards any form of alt-right thought and praxis.”

Concluder ‘Eat Acid See God’ is not quite like anything you have ever heard before, and probably won’t again. It’s not like anything they’ve released before and can basically be described as a musical kick in the face. Raw, provocative and unadulterated, turn it up loud and decide for yourself if you can hear, rather than see God. The band explain “It came out during a session held in a gloomy atmosphere with only dim lights in the rehearsal room, despite the sun shining bright and long that late summer afternoon. The first few synth notes we started with turned into a sticky musical slime. We felt like flies stuck in honey – angry and desperate – and consequently it’s the most psychedelic song on the album.”

The Gluts stated from their inception that they weren’t afraid to push the boundaries and nowhere is that clearer Ungrateful Heart; from powerful political messages to clever manipulation of genres – these guys know what they are doing and they do it LOUD.

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