Newcastle natives, Safe Hands first plunged into the Australian rock music scene 10 years ago as a hardcore band with an attitude to match. Their debut EP, Oh The Humanity (2011) and album, Montenegro (2013) earned them support slots with the likes of Norma Jean and Le Dispute, as well as a legion of fans they can now call their own. Their second album, Tie Your Soul To Mine is out through Lost Boy Records.
After issuing a statement via social media earlier this year addressing their desire to change their public persona and the way in which they relate to fans, it is no real surprise that Tie Your Soul To Mine is a little left of field when compared to what Safe Hands followers are usually used to hearing from their favourite band. That said, they are not about to let go of their hardcore sound without a fight, with many of the tracks featuring that trademark heaviness of guitar, bass and drums.
Much like the band itself, Tie Your Soul to Mine, pulls no punches as album opener, Coliseum 1921 begins with vocalist Benjamin Louttit singing, “You build a nest under the radar/ You ride that dead horse from winter to spring, only to realise that nag got you nowhere.” to a little low-key guitar playing. And it’s not long before the cacophony of noise that fans are used to kicks in.
The Safe Hands fans know and love find their groove with second track and single, Traffic Island Wreath. From that moment, the music draws in the listener and doesn’t let go. This is the music long-time lovers have been waiting for.
As a new listener not overly familiar with the band’s previous work, these heavier tracks are not necessarily to my particular taste, and for other “newbies”, they may be the equivalent of a punch in the face. But, as someone who is open to all kinds of music, there is generally something I like in all genres, and bands’ music, that surpasses everything else.
In Safe Hands’ case and Tie Your Soul To Mine in particular, the saving grace comes in their storytelling. There is a lyrical quality to each of the songs which, as a writer, I cannot ignore. The aforementioned lyrics of Coliseum 1921 are almost poetic in their delivery, as are that of Small Fortune and Pushed to the Moon – the latter of which has a little more of a “radio ready” appeal to it. In the second last song, Til The Birds Fell Off The Roof, Louttit sings, “Darling, green is the ugliest of colours on you.”, capturing the imagination of listeners beyond the music alone.
Of all the tracks, current single, The Great Affair (which is currently enjoying airplay on Triple J), the aforementioned Til The Birds Fell Off The Roof and Born in the Last Shower are the biggest highlights. For me, they fully showcase how the band have transitioned and grown as artists in the three years since Montenegro. The latter track, in particular, highlights the light and shade of Louttit’s vocals, which many listeners have not had a chance to explore in previous releases.
These particular songs, along with closing track, Wagtails, are in my opinion, the areas in which you can really see the meeting of Safe Hands’ so-called “new” and “old” sound meet to create an overall growth of the band as a whole.
Tie Your Soul To Mine represents something of a turning point for this band. In only their second album, they seem to have found their new sound and a new niche to explore. While this is something of an experimental release for a group that have relied heavily on their “hardcore” side, there is enough diversity within the tracks for both new and old fans to find common ground.
While you’re here, don’t forget to check out my interview with Safe Hands!
[Editor/Author Note: This review was originally written for AMNplify.]