The debate of preference for metropolitan or rural areas is an old one, and the distinction of partiality to either is a sign of taste for many. When it comes to the Handsome Furs, they prefer both, and they prefer neither, caught between a love and a disdain for either option. It is a matter of seeing failure in a long highway or hope in slabs of concrete, or otherwise longing for wide fields while stuck in a parking lot.
The duo of Handsome Furs began as an idea in the winter of 2005, and currently consists of Montreal residents Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry. Boeckner also sings and plays guitar in Wolf Parade and before that did much the same in Atlas Strategic, while Perry maintains a career as a writer. Dark and minimal while noisy and earnest, the fabric of their record together was just as informed by late nights as it was by Scandinavian black metal. Truly, the point of creating Handsome Furs was to be as sparse and repetitive as possible with the help of little more than vocals, guitars, and a new drum machine. Through this, songs of earthbound captains, eggs made of gold and iron, and sleepless bodies were born. Boeckner’s affected vocals thinly resonate as they are ushered in by a frenzied undertone of fear and uncertainty, all punctuated by drum machine beats. Through the course of each track, a deep-seated sense of longing struggles with staunch realism as a restless disdain for both urban life and smaller towns collide.
“Handsome Furs Hate This City,” for one, shouts out against the blasphemy of everyday life while wrestling apathy into a verbal chokehold. It floats by like a stilted daydream of desire, popping in and out of consciousness. The lush “Sing! Captain” reaches comparative heights, all awash in restrained static yet remaining comfortingly human as Boeckner intones, “Feed them wire, feed them chrome / We hate this place here, it’s our home.” Followed up by the triumphant “Dead + Rural,” it would be easy to collapse underneath the weight of the sound, wide-eyed and world-weary. What is offered here ultimately creates an edifice of time and place, and upholds the matter of perhaps seeking a home between the two, if such a thing exists at all.
Handsome Furs booked a tour of Europe before writing any songs, and have since opened for the likes of Paavoharju, Islaja, David Cross, and Modest Mouse before releasing a proper record. Recorded with Arlen Thompson at Wolf Parade’s studio, Mount Zoomer, in the heart of December, Plague Park is their debut. It is a record of melancholic tendency and heartfelt desire; restless and nomadic, it’s a stripped-down symphony roaming between city and country, and made for ears of either side.
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