VR Sex – ‘Hard Copy’ album review: a journey into the sordid underbelly of Los Angeles

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VR Sex – ‘Hard Copy’

THE SKINNY: In his time, Andrew Clinco made it clear that he was one of the most skilled songwriters at capturing the inherent weirdness of the city he called home, Los Angeles. This point is affirmed in the latest VR Sex album, Hard Copy, which seeks to explore the liminal space between reality and fictional renditions of it.

The record offers a blend of pulsating punk and psychedelia packed with ample atmosphere. Meanwhile, the strange, off-kilter essence of the music is bolstered by an array of surreal lyrical moments. As a unit, Clinco and the rest of the band work to convey that the ‘City of Angels’ isn’t as glistening as people might think. There’s a prominent seedy urban underbelly that they explore head-on.

Hard Copy is a significant moment for the project, as it marks the first time it has opened up into a fully-fledged band. For this outlet, Clinco swaps his usual guise of Drab Majesty’s Deb Demure for the nom de guerre of Noel Skum and now backed by the group, VR Sex’s sound has metamorphosed and is more multifaceted than ever. It’s a captivating journey into the heart of Los Angeles’ night-time idiosyncracies, brought to life with attitude and imagination. It’s Brian De Palma-esque.

Drawing on the influence of cult punk acts, underground garage, and many other areas familiar to crate diggers, VR Sex brought their latest opus to life by concentrating on the idea of reckless abandon, something their hometown is fully accustomed to. In addition to the back-to-basics studio approach they utilised, they’ve created an original and atmospheric listening experience that’s akin to taking Ketamine. It might not all be pleasant, but it’s certainly memorable.

At points heady and swollen and spatial and unnerving in others, a sense of evil permeates Hard Copy as the group furnish a statement of intent. A cult offering in every sense, while this eerie body of work might sonically sound like it is from a long time ago and harbour some moments that are too similar, it has a distinctly contemporary character. Here, the line between what’s real and not is blurred by the technology pervading life, and linear tales and genre tags become obsolete as new realities are created.

For fans of: Sunglasses, leather jackets, tattoos and a settling key of horse tranquiliser.

A concluding comment from the host of BBC Look North: “I cannot bear to think what these young men get up to in their private lives; the lyrics are gross and the music’s just a bloody racket!”

Hard Copy track-by-track:

Release Date: March 22nd | Producer: Mike Kriebel | Label: Dais

‘Dictionary Talk’: A rumbling introduction. Complete with a dissonant riff and demonic chord progression, the album’s opener is a declaration of purpose from the group. It’s a slice of off-kilter punk that threatens to fly fully off the rails, but ultimately, the train keeps on course, helped on by expressive thuds on the drums and an all-compassing finale. [3.5/5]

‘Hush Money Millionaire’: Kicking off with a droning bassline and a flurry of noise, the band wastes no time leading us to the next stop on this journey into the heart of Los Angeles. Clinco’s chasm-like delivery is commanding and drenched in effects as he conjures one of the most artistically affected choruses on the record. While it might appear a little kitsch, there’s an underlying point and ample energy, with aspects such as the blaring synth line preventing the gaudy familiarity from really impeding the broader product. [2.5/5]

‘Inaminate Love’:  A slower, twisting introduction opens up the third juncture before hypnotic drums suspend us with bated breath and then send us face-first down the rollercoaster as we take in the sprawling lights of Los Angeles from above. Oscillating and absolutely unsettling, initiating with the lyrics, “Some people are plastic / and all the rest die”, and offering one of the most satisfying, doom-laden chord progressions on the album. Clinco’s vocals are also outstanding here. [4/5]

‘Squid Row’: There’s a real groove to this one that has you locked in from the start, with Clinco pointing to modern absurdities such as “function over form”. It also teases bursting into a more straight-up and melodically satisfying realm. Still, it never fully does so as the dissonance wrestles with this natural inclination in an artistic masterstroke by the band. After all, Clinco has provided many otherworldly finales in Drab Majesty, and things are different with this outfit. A real grower toes the liminal space, and they analyse it with precision. [4.5/5]

‘Real Doll Time’: The lead single from Hard Copy is everything you want from a modern punk song. There’s energy, a sense of evil and one of Clinco’s naturally catchy choruses, making this one of the most accessible pieces on the record. I love the synth-led noise at the end, and once again, instead of giving us what we want, they tease us. The simple rhythm during this section is also very effective in changing mood. [4/5]

‘Runaway Runaway’: Bursting through the mix with a deluge of reverse delay, this frenzy then settles, with an equilibrium briefly instated as we head to the bathroom, make ourselves sick and ready for another beer, and yet another key, ready to head deeper into the city’s seedy underbelly. Boasting another piercing riff and crunching progression, this swell of noise is incredibly moreish. Another moment that blurs the lines between narcotic-infused weirdness and reality in a bewitching mass of colours, it’s one of the best moments on the record. Perfect for the late evening at festivals when you’re starting to lose the plot slightly. [4/5]

‘Space Invasion’: Disembarking with the haunting chime of the guitars and featuring one hell of a sliding bassline, this gothic atmosphere is right on. Comprised of another upbeat chorus, Clinco’s wobbling, delay-covered vocals and a churning end section, it’s clear at this point what the band’s formula is. [3/5]

‘Jenny Killer Glue’: This stop features my favourite guitar performance on Hard Copy. Noisy and melodically compelling, weaving in and out of the mix to weaponise the space fully, it works perfectly with the slower pace, making the dovetailing guitar section in the second half more alluring. By this point in the night, we’ve accepted our fate, and we’re going into the darkness with open eyes, helped by a whiff of that killer glue. [4/5]

‘In Great Detail’: Sucking us in with another palette that is both comforting and alarming, after hitting that glue, we’re feeling a little bit funky, but it’s not enough to call a cab yet. A second wind is coming, and the resounding rhythm and bassy guitars are enough to re-energise, as are the psychedelic shimmers of the chorus melody and Clinco’s delivery. A cigarette and a can of coke out back, with this playing through the speakers in the background, is an adequate means to dig deep and finish the evening as we started. We’re going to feel horrendous tomorrow, but fuck it, this winding cacophony is excellent. [4.5/5]

‘Medication or Mediation’: An experimental two minutes of noise, with a blurred voice, heard in the background and alien electronic sounds; this is the final stop on the journey, as we make sense of the night that just happened and all the aberrations we met along the way. It’s a good thing we left that house when we did. [3/5]

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