Ha the Unclear have had a fascinating career, starting off as (South) Dunedin band Brown and releasing two albums (‘Brown’ and ‘Mannequins’) before a move north meant a new member, and a change of name to the intriguing Ha the Unclear.
‘Invisible Lines’, their second full album as Ha the Unclear, is straight away a treasure, continuing their idiosyncratic adventures in melodic, introspective post-punk pop.
This time they have expanded their sound into something a bit deeper, on show with the spacily lovely Things, Rituals, Things, and the Phoenix Foundation-ish Stuck In My Head – a smart piece of melodic pop. Lyrically, ‘Invisible Lines’ is sharp, with observations and truisms woven into the stories.
Over in well under two minutes, (All of Our Friends Have Moved to) Australia, boasts lyrics that cut to the chase of trans-Tasman differences, all packaged with an especially passionate vocal delivery. Ha The Unclear have a habit of re-working earlier material, and here they’ve remade Bacterium (Look at Your Motor Go), transforming a simply-recorded, acoustic song into a polished alt-rock track, while never losing sight of the complex structure beneath.
With vocalist/songwriter Michael Cathro having a resolutely ‘New Zilind’ singing accent ‘Invisible Lines’ sounds immediately local, especially with its references to particular places.
While in the hands of lesser musicians this could sound confined, here it gives them an edge, something (along with their evident musicianship) to set them apart.