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The Margaret Hooligans - Driver! (Piety Street Publishing)

22 April 2024

Bands like The Margaret Hooligans (are there any other bands like them?) are a music writer’s dream, or nightmare, depending on what type of writer you are. If you are the sort of person who feels happiest waxing lyrical about mainstream bands and already defined sounds, who throws around phrases like “the new Arctic Monkeys” and revels in hyperbolic words like “awesome,” “catchy” and “haunting” and tired phrases such as “up and coming,” then you might find writing about them hard work. However, if you like a challenge and love that feeling when you find that the music itself is pulling your pen in unexpected directions and that your writing seems to be responding to the music rather than your predetermined intentions and go-to favourite phrases, they are gold.

I like to think that I fall into the latter category. This is why when their beats start going off-kilter, when they sound wonderfully ragged and belligerent, deliberately swerve poise and polish and all but the most necessary production, when their songs seem crisscrossed with all manner of random and un-second-guess-able moves and grooves, when unexpected and inexplicable drum fills crash to the floor, and when sound, style, pacing, patterns, volume, and velocity seem to be ever-shifting, as they do here, I feel as if by putting virtual pen to digital paper, I am finally doing something worthwhile.

There is an element of controlled chaos to “Driver!” Well, it is not that controlled, but it is welcome nonetheless. It feels as if the sound of college rock has exploded over an alt-rock /alt-pop/alt-everything landscape. It feels like an anagram of what went before, as if they have taken the scissors to music, cut it into soundbites and rearranged it into strange new forms. It feels as if the rules are gone, and genres are no longer any use. It feels like a fresh start, an actual year zero, rather than the one that the posturing punks proposed.

And, more than any of that, it feels great!