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Regeneration is the order of the day for the latest Sub Pop signee, former Hooray For Earth frontman Noel Heroux. After two full-length albums and a few EPs, his previous band called it a day in 2014. Heroux makes the final days of that band sound like a desperate trudge.

Mass Gothic is his attempt to return to loving, committed songwriting and performance. Falling out of love - out of effort - with the creative process usually sounds the death knell for artists. When you can't even be bothered seeking that connection with the material you know you're expected to produce, and which others around you are desperately trying to re-create, is heartbreaking. Like sleepwalking towards an inevitable cliff edge.

Presumably then, Mass Gothic is Heroux with the shackles off. And in parts, it's a salutary reminder of why it is artists actually need to care about the things they're selling. 'Nice Night', appearing halfway through the collection, sees the singer cut loose for the first time, allowing a retching, guttural call to break through the mess of distorted guitars. The chirpy 'Every Night You've Got To Save Me' recalls fond memories of Cursive at their most charming. There's an odd fissure between sweetness and sourness.

It's a shame, then, that almost half of the album has already passed by the time these tracks emerge from the shruggy fog. 'Mind is Probably' explores that staple of the last couple of years, the mutated chillwave disco pop workout. It's an odd choice for an opener, structured as it is more in the vein of a late-album wig out with an elongated tail and over-zealous crashes. We've barely entered Mass Gothic's world before we're being battered over the head with droning, messy repetition. 'Want To, Bad' takes a similarly unresolved track, a chord progression that wheels from one side to another, lashing out without ever quite finding a logical conclusion. Which is fine, but, you know, it's also not so fun to be around.

Heroux's voice is homogenous. Most tracks sit him squarely in his comfort zone, with nice harmonies crisscrossing key line-enders. When Weezer do it, it's kind of OK because they live within a sonic environment which is knowingly constrained and focused above all else on bombast and cheek. Mass Gothic doesn't have that. It's trying to be friendly, sure, but also personal and perceptive. 'Money Counter' works within these constraints. A lot of the record struggles to.

'Soul' and 'Territory' in particular feel a bit like the Marc Almond years after Soft Cell; perhaps too raw and self-reflexive to appeal to a wider audience than his own personal demons and sympathetic friends. 'Soul' is an especially difficult experience, a swooning, huge car crash of a song.

There's nothing particularly wrong with Mass Gothic. There's clearly a compelling artistic voice in there. Perhaps album 1 isn't the time to draw any solid conclusions about Noel Heroux's potential for solo output. He says it himself in the press notes - he's coming out of the maelstrom of a painful separation. These things take time to heal. He's not quite there yet. But he'll be back.

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