While most of this album was released as a cassette in 2013 as the A Little Bird Told Me EP, this 2014 CD re-release with one extra track qualifies for inclusion here because it just does. Having missed out on the now sold-out 2013 EP but found their song The Blind to be the standout highlight of the Dead Funny Compilation Vol.1 label sampler, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to catch up with Hearsays this time.
It’s a curious irony that on In Our Time the Hearsays seem so busy with occupying every time except their own. There are echoes of the 60s, 70s and 80s throughout the mini-album, but it’s the 90s that it’s really about – in particular the way the 90s’ obsession with the past ended up recycling and reproducing influences spanning several decades of rock into a sound that is now recognisable as a distinct era of its own. Opening track When I’m Wrong is a 2010s take on a 90s take on an 80s take on 60s guitar pop, with the Byrdsian jangle underscored by distinctly post-80s rhythm guitar scuzz and lead vocalist Zebra’s disconcertingly Miki Berenyi-ish intonation – in fact if there’s one band that Hearsays really resemble on this track, it’s Lovelife-era Lush.When I’m Wrong
The Blind is still present and correct, and still a gorgeous song. The guitar riff is what stands out, echoing the melody of Happy End’s iconic Kaze wo Atsumete, but what really makes the song is the series of descending chords playing out just beneath the surface. The new song, You Couldn’t Do So Much Better, is like a greatest hits of all your favourite 90s indie rock songs distilled into one concentrated burst, with its opening riff that threatens to explode into Radiohead’s Just, although once it gets going the band settle back into the sort of mid-90s 4AD, Throwing Muses-esque sound that seems to be their sound.You Coudn’t Do So Much Better
I don’t deny that a lot of my reaction to this album is personal. With twenty years having now passed since the mid-90s, it’s a curious feeling for those of us who came of age musically in that era to find the same amount of time has passed since then as had passed between Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and Suede’s Dog Man Star, or The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and The Smiths’ eponymous debut. Listening to the Hearsays feels at once incredibly familiar and also strangely alienating, its present-day context emphasising the distance between the sounds we are hearing and the memories they evoke.
Whether any of this is intentional or whether the band have even heard any of the music I’m referencing here I don’t know and don’t really care (I really find it so dreary when bands feel the need to protest ignorance as defence against influence, as if the latter were somehow the more shameful option) but at the end of this particular twenty-year cycle, the sounds of 1990s indie rock are something that have undoubtedly formed a core part of the Hearsays’ sound. More importantly, the quality of songwriting matches up to the best of their sonic forbears.