New Zealand’s Opposite Sex took a massive step forward for their latest album by taking a step back. Their eponymous 2011 album pulled in a swath of influences that included NZ-style jangle and some more precious sways of indie pop. On Hamlet they lose any sense of preciousness. The album is dark and biting, exhibiting a love for The Cramps’ frantic vein of post punk and the squall laden approach of The Flesh Eaters and The Fall. They also heartily embrace John Cale’s cacophonous violin screech in a way that fellow South Hemi RSTB faves Wireheads have been fond of in their tenure. Then, to further strip back, they whittled it down to an tight eight tracks, leaving no room for anything that could come close to filler. The album is at its best when Lucy Hunter’s vocals plead, prod and scream at the listener with the best intentions of post-punk’s history swelling behind her. She opens her delivery up with a vulnerability, as on the crushing finale, “Long Dead Night,” but even when Hunter is in repose, the music is fluttering and scraping, showing that under the surface all is never as well as it might appear.
Similarly, mid-point, “Complicity,” begins as a calm respite, but builds to a crescendo of noise-veined accusation and twisted pain. And pain seems to be the prevailing notion that floats through the album, pain and an alienation from those around them. The album’s home in the States is Dull Tools, but there’s more to be said for their home on New Zealand’s burgeoning Melted Ice Cream Collective, a showcase of post-punk talent based mostly in the town of Christchurch (though OS are from Dunedin) and its become a welcomed pocket of angular angst amid a sea of jangle. Opposite Sex stand to continue the collective’s vision and Hamlet might be one of the most cutting records they’ve delivered from that stable yet.
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