While Haggard Cat is being branded as a new musical project, its creators Tom Marsh and Matt Reynolds birthed the Cat in 2011. It’s only the pair’s choice to focus full-time on infamous hardcore group HECK that stopped them from releasing any music. Following HECK’s breakup last year, their two-piece has become the priority once again.
On their debut full-length album ‘Challenger’, Marsh and Reynolds showcase their desire to follow in the footsteps of the double-acts that came before them, while holding on to the chaos that made their former band one of the most discombobulating acts of our age. The result is a polyamorous marriage of punk, hardcore, garage rock and working man blues played with feverish hooks and a rawness where each detail down to the squeaks of Marsh’s bass drum pedal plays a part in building the sound of this record.
Of course, there are still plenty of HECK-isms they’ve brought forth onto ‘Challenger’. You can hear it in the uncontrolled guitar solos in ‘The Patriot’ and scorched screaming across ‘Grave Digger’, but with Haggard Cat, Marsh and Reynolds emphasise the hip-shaking sing-along moments, like ‘American Graffiti’s’ “Bury your head, head in the sand, we’ve got blood, got blood on our hands” hooks, delivered with the leer of a drinking song taken too far, while the fuzz-drenched ‘Legend’ is carried off with the grandeur of a Western soundtrack.
‘Challenger’ is packed with sudden bursts of boogie-ready grooves that fuses the end result of years and trailblazing hardcore with a love of old QOTSA and Clutch. Admittedly, there aren’t a whole lot of other ideas on display beyond that, but Haggard Cat aren’t here to reinvent the wheel. It’s two dudes letting off steam, and making a lot of noise in the process. And now that it’s their full-time band, that noise can only get greater.
‘Challenger’ by Haggard Cat is released on 20th April on Earache Records.
Words by Andrew Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)