Album Review: Microwave – Let’s Start Degeneracy


Anyone who’s kept an eye on Microwave throughout the last decade knows that the band has a complicated past with religion. While frontman and vocalist Nathan Hardy grew up in a conservative, Mormon family, he’s spent much of his career as a musician rebelling against that upbringing. That said, it should come as no surprise that there are nods to that history on the band’s latest album, Let’s Start Degeneracy. What is surprising is that the album opens with a soft and tender hymn. And that’s not the only surprise the record has in store for longtime fans.

From dumpster diving at Dunkin’ Donuts on their debut album release, Stovall, to “green mining through ashtrays” on 2019’s Death Is A Warm Blanket, the Atlanta-born emo trio’s lyrics have always been equal parts raw and evocative. Matching lyrical intensity with screeching guitar licks and sludgy bass riffs, Microwave fine-tunes the art of capturing the essence of angsty rebellion in every song. Growling each verse over crunchy instrumentals, they’re the kinds of songs you want to turn up to 11 and scream at your steering wheel while driving impulsively fast.

It’s that emotional recklessness that gives Microwave’s music the flavor fans have come to know and love. It’s also the secret sauce that’s missing from Let’s Start Degeneracy.

Microwave gives fans a first taste of their experimental new direction on the album’s opening track, “Portals” which is a rendition of the classic Christian hymn “Softly and Tenderly.” Opening with dripping synths, punctuated by soft guitar chords, and featuring an unknown vocalist, fans could easily be forgiven for thinking they’ve accidentally selected an album from another artist. But only until the soundscape melts into the next track, “Ferrari,” which lives in the same sonic realm but begins to feel much more familiar once Hardy’s distinctive vocals shine through.

It isn’t until the third track, and the album’s first single release, “Circling The Drain” that the album really begins to feel like Microwave. While it doesn’t ramp up pacing to the level seen on previous releases, “Circling The Drain” contains all the other earmarks of classic Microwave—crunchy instrumentals, lyrics grappling with a depressing existentialism, and a chorus that sees Hardy pushing his vocals to the limit.

Throughout much of Let’s Start Degeneracy, Hardy’s lyrics remain as emotionally haunting as they’ve always been. On “Bored Of Being Sad,” he spars with his own mental health as he contemplates how to escape his toxic love affair with depression. Meanwhile, “Omni” sees Hardy pondering questions like “What’s it like to be a martyr?”

Though the lyrical intensity is there, instrumentally it leaves something to be desired for fans of alternative rock. Much of the album sees the band straying from the sounds that have defined their music up to this point. Experimenting with new samples and musical effects, Microwave diversifies its sound by gently walking listeners down unexpected avenues. In many ways, the album feels more akin to 2010’s indie darlings like Young The Giant than to the alternative-driven releases you’d expect from a label like Pure Noise Records. But even with its missteps, Hardy drives the album forward with his unique lyrics, keeping it all undeniably Microwave

Get the album here. 

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