The Weekend Australian album review: Witch Hats – ‘Pleasure Syndrome’, December 2011

An album review for The Australian, reproduced below in its entirety.

Witch Hats – Pleasure Syndrome

Though this Melbourne quartet has been associated with jagged, sneering punk rock on previous releases, a second LP, Pleasure Syndrome, finds Witch Hats in pursuit of something less dark, more beautiful.

The bass-heavy swagger and distorted guitars are still in place, but singer Kris Buscombe has clearly been honing his ear for pop songwriting in the three years since the band’s debut, Cellulite Soul.

This repositioning of the sound has worked: those put off by Buscombe’s wounded howl and his bandmates’ discordant squall in the past will now enjoy songs such as In the Mortuary, a quasi-acoustic ballad featuring pretty lead guitar phrasing and Buscombe’s sweetest voice yet. These 10 songs are more confident than anything the band has released before.

First single Hear Martin – built around a creepy keyboard line and written from the perspective of infamous gunman Martin Bryant – is the most accessible track here. It’s followed by Ashley, whose persistent bassline underscores the album’s most unsettling track. Buscombe revels in exploring the darker side of humanity, as best evidenced in album opener The Bounty, a gritty tale of frontiersmen scalping their peers for “fifty a head”.

Witch Hats has heart, skill and wide appeal, and Pleasure Syndrome gives 10 more reasons descriptors underrated and underground should be associated with this band no longer.

LABEL: Longtime Listener
RATING: 4 ½ stars

This review was originally published in The Weekend Australian Review on December 31. For more Witch Hats, visit their Bandcamp. The video for ‘Hear Martin‘ is embedded below.

Comments? Below.
  1. Darragh says:

    Yeah, this is a great album. One of my favourites from last year.

    I interviewed Kris Buscombe late last year, and he told me that the bass line in Ashley was inspired by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song. Another fun fact is that The Bounty is also inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s novel, Blood Meridian.


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