The Sydney surf-rock outfit secure a grappling hold over toxic masculinity throughout their confronting debut album.
With their fleeting guitar work and unapologetic rejection towards the patriarchal society, the Sydney based quartet demonstrate just how vibrant and accessible socially conscious guitar music can truly be. A potent attack upon the detrimental gender stereotypes which have plagued society for centuries, Hot Work remain defiant in their stand against sexism, with their expressive 12-track feminist soundtrack showcasing the very best of a band whose identity was established upon a general disdain towards inequality. And with misogyny still a prevalent issue within the music industry today, both the relevance and importance of the band’s compelling debut album mustn’t be understated.
Composed of Riley Pierce (drums), Jack McPhee (bass), Michael van Dyk (vocals/guitar) and Liam Wilson (guitar/slide), the Australian four-piece have set the indie-alternative scene alight since forming back in 2018. Now eager for their assertive personalities and buoyant grooves to reach the masses, their debut album, ‘Boys Club’, denotes a well-rehearsed outfit, whose undeniable chemistry prompts a focussed concept album brimming with innovation and creativity. A scintillating fusion of surf-rock, post-punk, doo-wop and psychedelia, Hot Work’s diverse unpicking of toxic masculinity is a credit to both their growth mindset and intricate musicianship.
Kickstarting the album with the infectious grooves of ‘Baby Boy’, Hot Work immediately present an animated approach to alternative indie-rock, with their industrious blend of garage-rock and dance-punk conjuring up a spellbinding presence reminiscent of current acts such as Sports Team and Courting. Likewise, van Dyk’s emphasised vocal delivery issues the satirical elements associated with current post-punk outfits such as Squid and Viagra Boys, with the Sydney surf-rockers finding an adequate balance between wit and sobriety – a stable foundation upon which the rest of the album is built. A similar formula is adopted on the following track, ‘Pretty in Pink’. Starting out as a psychedelic slow-burner, the track swiftly ascends into another ball of energy, with its fiery riffs and sprightly chants contrasting heavily with the despondent tone which delivers the lyric; “I’m a god damn fool”.
In order to pull off a concept album which outlines the significance of accountability when aiming to overcome toxic masculinity, a high level of self-assurance is required, and unsurprisingly, this is something the Sydney outfit has in abundance. The back-to-back tracks ‘The Problem Pt2’ and ‘Blame Game’ are the epitome of this conscious awareness, the former being a fuzzy, highly reverberated track whose emphatically layered guitars mark the return of the band’s contagious energy. However, while van Dyk appears to have removed the misogynist shades, at this stage individual accountability is yet to be achieved, with his frenetic delivery pointing the finger in every direction through the lyric; “he’s the problem, I’m the problem, I’ve been thinking we’re the problem”. The following ‘Blame Game’ is a 5 and a half minute epic which embraces the band’s surf-rock roots, with its galactic bass, reserved percussion and evocative slide guitar delivering one of the most exquisite instrumentals on the entire project. Like its predecessor, this track also signifies a shift in mentality, with van Dyk’s subtle change in adjective replacing “your” with “my”, allowing himself to take full accountability with the lyric; “it’s a cold place in my heart”.
The band’s grappling hold over toxic masculinity continues into the second half of the album, inciting some of the project’s more cathartic tracks in ‘Privilege Of A Man’ and ‘Just Don’t Know’; 2 direct, hard-hitting tracks which have punk attitude right at their core. With their resounding guitar work, indignant vocal inflections, and brutal commentary on domestic abuse, this is the closest the band come to emulating the redefined masculinity portrayed by the likes of IDLES on recent post-punk albums.
The closing trio of mellow hits culminate the journey towards equality on a slower, more psychedelic tone. ‘Sea of Despair’ and its lounge music characteristics welcome this change of pace, as the pandemonium of the previous track is replaced with the gorgeous slide guitar and crisp percussion, with van Dyk’s isolated vocals personified through the lyrics “swimming alone in the sea”. The psychedelic track, ‘The Grind’ depicts the “tough guy” façade which brings nothing but pain, before the closing ‘One Day’ concludes the album on a reflective tone, as van Dyk admits “there’s a lot to learn”, but perhaps more powerfully, “a lot to unlearn”.
An absorbing concept album which provides hope for both current and future generations, ‘Boys Club’ is an essential body of work for the music industry, which remains overrun with sexism and toxic masculinity. With grit, honesty and a hint of satire, Hot Work has delivered an influential debut album, whose pressing themes and diverse instrumentation provides a solid foundation for future releases.