Considering that they have been hell-bent on breaking the mould since their inception, it comes as no surprise that Aussie geniuses He Danced Ivy are well and truly kicking conformity up the ass with their latest EP called “Optimistic Cynic”. With the new 6-track EP being released by the Brisbane-based band just over a month ago, we should all be kicking ourselves for being so late to the party. “Optimistic Cynic” is the sound of a band who is completely fearless when it comes to playing and wrestling around between genres; a running leap away from the slightly disorganised and tentative sounds of their 2016 debut “The Verbal Kind”. Among the six songs on “Optimistic Cynic” are their two singles, “New Stain” and “Spitting on Infinity”, with both of them boasting their own strange and disconcerting music videos. Both singles caused quite a bit of excitement, and for good reason; they were mere hints of what the rest of the EP was about to unleash. Upon listening to He Danced Ivy’s “Optimistic Cynic”, we had only one thing to say here at Overdrive Mag: holy fucking shit!! These four guys need to be watched closely because the quality of music they’ve just put out is sure to have them skyrocketing new heights soon.
He Danced Ivy open the album with the in-your-face sound of “Guillotines”, with the ambiguous line “If I could ask anything, I’d love to hear the question again” serving as the catalyst that catapults the song into offbeat guitars and quirky vocals. The chorus carries a catchy melody amongst the mercurial and aggressive genre-hopping that has become the band’s defining feature. “Guillotines” is one hell of a start to the EP; the band seem utterly determined to show us the extremes of what they are capable of right from the beginning, leaving me wondering if they’ve given themselves any room in which to grow for the rest of the tracks.
Those fears are soon laid to rest with their strikingly artful single “New Stain”. Instead of throwing their weight around with musical technicality and intensity, this track sees the band taking a more cohesive and less chaotic route, allowing their eccentric but pleasing melodies to shine through.
Their second single called “Spitting on Infinity” takes its place as the third track of the EP. Featuring a deceptive acoustic guitar and piano-tinged intro to lead listeners astray, the musicians jump into a hard-driving modernised punk verse and chorus. This incredible track holds He Danced Ivy’s secret musical recipe for the perfect balance between whimsical hard rock with a hint of pop, and bizarre punk with a dose of System of a Down insanity. Their height of punkish rebellion is in the fuck-you written to the universe with the lines “spitting on infinity, pissing on the sun”, acting as a sure-fire way to get the crowd singing along live.
“Cutting it Fine” is an ideal showcase of Dave’s stunning vocal range, leaping from the highest of highs to speaking range and back up again with a peculiar joy. The mind-boggling time signatures and wild tempo and riff changes have created a multi-headed omniscient creature that thrashes with awesome power, galvanised by blast beats and jarring guitars. The intensity of this track dissipates in an unexpected way when the lead singer ends the song with a quick “okay, bye!” leading the rest of the band to inexplicably dissolve into hysterics as the music fades out.
Taking a turn down a more reserved and emotional road, “April Fools (Act 2)” is an fervent sequel to it’s profound 2016 precursor (“April Fools”). Where the first act danced delicately through the gentle introversion presented lyrically, act 2 refuses to shy away from the distinctive intensity of He Danced Ivy’s sound. Instead Act 2 explores the line between soulful vulnerability and visceral aggression to great effect.
Closing out the EP with just the right level of brutality, “The Singing Tree” contains every ingredient that makes this band so damn delicious. An art-rock-esque intro with dramatic lyrics grow from something curiously creepy to a disturbingly violent storm of sound. The non-stop intensity of this final track on “Optimistic Cynic” serves to make listeners desperate for more. It feels kike the band have certainly saved their best for last, with head-banging riffs and relentless genre collisions causing an uncontrollable explosion of musical passion.
He Danced Ivy might only be in the early stages of their career, but the release of “Optimistic Cynic” has shown just how far their devotion to their craft and their understanding of their favourite genres can reach. This EP just screams pure authenticity and an utterly unbound source of creativity that I hope will carry them to unforseen levels in the coming years. Stay weird, He Danced Ivy!
If you would like to see what all the fuss is about, get yourself a copy of the EP or stream it here!