Mourn encountered some trouble back in 2015 when they had label issues – they wanted to quickly follow up their brilliant debut album, but they weren’t allowed. That kind of stalling is bad for a band like Mourn, who are young enough and creative enough to want to keep up their good record. So, whilst it might be slightly later than they anticipated, Ha, Ha, He. follows up that debut. Bearing in mind their first album clocked in at a speedy 23 minutes, 26 minutes isn’t exactly long either. They’re a punk band in every way possible, possibly more in the traditional sense than we’re used to in 2016 with bands like Death Grips blurring the lines, but Mourn are punk in the sense that Wire and Gang of Four are. Initially they got tagged with a Ramones and PJ Harvey influence, but thankfully Ha, Ha, He. decides to explore more than just straight up indie-rock or post-punk. There’s little stabs at jazz on ‘Storyteller’, hardcore on ‘Irrational Friend’ and gloomy goth-rock on ‘Fry Me’ and ‘The Unexpected’. It’s minor adjustments that Mourn have made, but these adjustments are key to their longevity.
Much like their debut, when they give themselves room to breathe from two-minute songs, they have some interesting results. But the same problem carries over from the first record – they don’t do it often enough. On ‘The Unexpected’, which at 2:40 qualifies as a long song for Mourn, they give themselves time to build up and take a moment to shine the spotlight on each instrument. On ‘The Unexpected’, it’s the combination of Carla Pérez’ elastic guitar playing and Antonio Postius’ drumming, which has come on in leaps and bounds and he has more of a roll as he plays now. The relationship between Perez and Jazz Rodríguez, lead vocalist, both in their dual guitar playing and vocals, has always provided the backbone of the band, and giving them the space to work around each other makes ‘The Unexpected’ such a great song. They can be loud and slow, in fact, it has more of an impact than the more immediate punk songs. The foreboding chorus of ‘Nobody’s exempt from the unexpected’ is creepy and filled with dread. The entire album is like an indie-rock soundtrack to an old-school horror movie. I imagine it lines up perfectly with The Evil Dead like Pink Floyd and The Wizard of Oz, though you’d probably have to replay Ha, Ha, He. several times.
Mourn aren’t strangers to a catchy song title either. On their debut, there was ‘Boys Are C**ts’ and ‘Your Brain Is Made Of Candy’ and this time we have ‘President Bullshit’, which continues the horror theme with ‘Keep the monster quiet’ in the chorus. The song is one of the more traditional, minimalist punk songs that Mourn write. Interestingly enough, Leia Rodríguez, bassist, steals the show more times than you could count on Ha, Ha, He. Her presence, plus Postitus on drums, has elevated the band to a more equal playing field. Whereas before Carla Pérez and Jazz Rodríguez graced the cover of their self-titled, they’re all on Ha, Ha, He., for good reason. Listen to the bass interlude on ‘Fry Me’, which is so silky smooth that it pops right out against the usual clatter of guitars.
It’d be easy to write Ha, Ha, He. off as a rush job, but maybe that’s Mourn’s idea. It’s a lighting in a bottle band, and they just have to capture it in case it happens to go away. The band were originally covered due to their young age (Leia Rodríguez was 15 when their debut was released), but if they want to be a band that can stand on their own without labels like ‘youth’, ‘PJ Harvey’ or ‘Ramones’, this album is the right way to go about it. The horror influence provides some exciting moments, and going further down the post-punk/goth-rock path might make Mourn even more interesting in the future. For now though, all they need to do is keep putting out very good music.
Funnel Recommends: The Unexpected / Second Sage / Fry Me