Were there an award for the Most-Difficult-Of-Difficult-Second-Albums, then Giant Drag’s Annie Hardy would win it, hands down. Hardy has been trying to give birth to the sop****re Giant Drag long-player for a very long time. Her first record, Hearts and Unicorns, came out to critical acclaim in 2005. We are now, in case you weren’t aware, in 2013. Since her debut and her successful UK tours with the likes of The Cribs, a band-member quit (and when you’re in a two-piece group and the departed member plays drums and keys AT THE SAME TIME, that’s quite a chunk of your sound gone). After that, by all accounts, she was hooked up disastrously by her label with musicians of whom she had never heard. When the results weren’t great, she was promptly dropped by said label. No label support. No band.
So she went cap-in-hand to her loyal fanbase, who dug deep in the increasingly-familiar ‘fan-funding’ tradition. When she required more funds, she sold a bunch of her ***** on eBay (*not her actual ****). An excellent EP, Swan Song, was forthcoming in 2010 and fleet-handed drummer/keyboardist Micah Calabrese was back on board, but the chances of the LA duo creating an entire album still seemed remote.
And then, with no fanfare and no warning, Annie Hardy appeared on Tumblr on Tuesday of this week to announce that her second LP, Waking Up Is Hard To Do, was finally out. Not ‘coming out soon’ or ‘in progress’ but an actual thing, ready to purchase, right now. Over seven years since her fantastic debut, there was finally a new album to wrap our ears around. It seems that the songs had been recorded a while ago and that the planets had finally aligned (presumably through the singer/songwriter forcing them with her bare hands) enough for this record to be released into the world. “I decided to stop talking about Waking Up Is Hard To Do until something was happening,” she said by way of explanation. “People who talk about **** but never have anything to show for it are the worst.”
In contrast with how it was clearly such a ****ing ***** to make, Waking Up… is as bright as a button. The tone of the record is set within the first tune, 90210. With a chorus that soars over acoustic guitar, the song lands closer to the summer-pop of Slayer than the heavy riffs of My Dick Sux (both from her first record). Similarly, second song, We Like The Weather has a bouncy bassline and ooh-la-la-la’s, and the next track, We Won’t Come Around offers handclaps and Phil Spektor Girl Group-esque “ooh-oohs”. Meanwhile, Messif My Face brings piano-led lounge-jazz to the table. For real. Make no mistake, this certainly ain’t the dense post-grunge that we experienced on the first album.
That’s not to say, though, that Waking Up… is a total departure. Hardy’s signature guitar sound and unique vocal are still strong. And while the song titles might not be of the You **** Like My Dad variety, her lyrics are still biting and witty. Take, for instance, Garbage Heart. The song opens which a vocal melody that nods (ironically enough, because it’s a break-up song) to Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, but ends in classic Giant Drag guitar fuzziness, with Hardy’s voice going from soft and sweet to a growled “Forgive me, I’m not sorry.” Elsewhere, she reprises the meowing from the classic Kevin Is Gay on Meowch (appropriately).
The record ends with Seen The Light. While starting downbeat (“Everything I hate in you is what I hate in me…”), it ends joyously, with a Gospel-like chorus of “Lord, Lord, Lord, I’ve seen the light.” Although its epiphanic subject-matter doesn’t seem to refer to the making of this record, it is undoubtedly the perfect way to close it. A celebration of finally getting this album out of her system. To at last be free from its shackles.
Regardless of the gap between first and second albums, with Hardy focusing on a couple of other bands and projects now, I wouldn’t go expecting any more Giant Drag output for a while. Indeed, all pointers suggest that this might signal the end of the band. You certainly couldn’t blame Hardy for wanting to put the whole thing to bed and start afresh. But whether Waking Up Is Hard To Do represents a full-stop or merely a comma, it’s a truly fine record and it’s an absolute delight to have someone as talented and interesting as Annie Hardy back on the scene. Wake up! There’s a new Giant Drag Album - Something You Said