If We Note The Intentional Misspelling Of Horse, Do We Take The New Petrol Hoers Album Seriously Or Not?

God bless Petrol Hoers. After stepping out of the shadow of being an outrageous tribute act of an outrageous originals act, you can argue that they’ve become more ‘successful’ than their own inspiration. Being the only horse musician in the world to get airplay by the BBC is no mean feat whatsoever. You could also just stop that sentence at being the only horse musician in the world, which is impressive in its own right. Yet three years later, the pioneer of digital horsecore is back with another collection of songs, less about the semantics of masturbating horses, and more about the feasibility of S&M in space, and the personal struggles of mental health, and alcohol dependency.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. Petrol Hoers, for all the characteristic accomplishments a horse can have, is very much human. That human is Dan Buckley, and while being a colourful character in his own right, which last year’s interview with the mastermind speaks for itself, he is in tune with his own vulnerabilities and flaws. Not to mention being socially aware beyond the Petrol Cinematic Universe, which comes across a lot more in this new album. For its musical capacity, he continues to masquerade somewhere as a caricature of Atari Teenage Riot, if fronted by The Young Ones, to a frantic circus organ soundtrack. As fun as that sounds, and that’s undeniable at this point, it’s those candid revelations about the artist behind the art, that make for Please Note…’s most compelling content.

Of course any artist can write and sing about their struggles. The blues wouldn’t exist without hardship. Album opener It’s Just A Mask though, while swayed in the jovial tones that Petrol Hoers is known for, offers an amuse-bouche of his fantastic songwriting capabilities, perhaps being squirreled away this entire time. Because it’s truly excellent at its best. The entire album as whole, in due thanks to Dan’s side hustle as a techno producer, sounds clean and crisp for the bombastic chaos that spikes throughout Please Note…’s duration. The manipulation of the opening vocal loop, while the carnival keys start ramping up behind it, will certainly tickle those audiophiles among us. Lyrically however, Petrol Hoers has never sounded better, and in fact presents a fascinating juxtaposition against the song. It serves as a reintroduction to the planet of Petrol Hoers, especially as the last music from them, bar 21 Viral Hits, was released pre-pandemic. Like greeting old friends for a catch-up and a coffee, while being chased by clowns. It’s this pandemic backdrop though that helps set the narrative for their admission about depression and mental blocks. Petrol Hoers has a fantastic knack for rhymes, but the standalone segment about ‘my seasonal depression and my regular depression’ is a stroke of genius. It leads into the honest assessment that things have not been OK, though the medium of a breakcore-heavy chorus, punctuated by strong screams and choral coos. While It’s Just A Mask is a very personal proclamation, it does feature the very profound reminder that the stigma surrounding mental health still needs addressing, and that you, yes you, are enough in this world whatever your struggle may be.

Continuing the fine lyrical dexterity, in prose that could just be pure poetry, is I Would Die For Mr Crunchy, reeling off problematic figures and groups that rightly should be in the firing line. The ferocious guitarwork, backed by ear-splitting, hell-for-leather drum loops, charges headstrong into Petrol Hoers’ hitlist for lack of a better term. The caustic sounds that accompany the words, certainly adds to the incensed nature of the track, especially wishing the harm of defecating hedgehogs onto his targets. The irony of course being that hedgehogs are among an endangered species nowadays, so rightly should be protected. There’s a gentle tug here, between the dimensions of current affairs, and the surreal scenarios that are concocted in the Hoers laboratory (though the existence of Mr. Crunchy may well be legitimate), that bridges the gap nicely into the next few songs beyond it. One can’t help but wonder what kind of political agendas could be tackled lyrically, sans the injection of humour, as there’s certainly inarguable talent to explore that. Another time, another place perhaps. You Can Give A Horse A Buckfast however, though tinted with chipper decorum, is more serious in tone, detailing not just the relationship with alcohol, but the people alongside it. With a phased arpeggio into the beginning of the track, exploding into arguably the heaviest jungle drums of the entire album, every bass kick like a punch to the head, and a fiery guitar undertone beneath it, Dan screams he’s officially done drinking. That intro alone is so intense, it’s clearly a massive point of contention. The verses have a gabber bounce within, and although the organ and melodies keeps a jolly thread running through the narrative, it’s the continual, building bursts of resentment and defiance that stay memorable.

That represents a third of the album, and the string of songs between I Would Die For Mr. Crunchy and You Can Give A Horse A Buckfast, rank as perhaps the best Petrol Hoers songs conceived to date. Captain Me, Space Daddy might just have the most obnoxiously catchy earworm you’ll hear for the foreseeable future. Loosely based around the siren sounds of the starship Enterprise, along with some very 90s RnB-sounding drum fills, the concussive bass blasts and detuned cries of synth, back the verses screaming about the benefits of space travel and sci-fi exploration. At higher volumes, there’s a crunch from the synths that does also sound like it clips the audio, but it doesn’t detract too much from its impact. The following giddiness and glee of the pre-chorus is rife with mischief, switching to a lighter-hearted tone to dictate what else happens in this fantasy, and well, it involves spanking. The drop of this chorus has the kind of boisterous bounce that’s impossible not to be swept away by, with the unforgettable refrain forced through your eardrums whether you want it or not.

Honk If You Like Donk follows a similar formula, a lament to the existential crisis caused by not knowing if you like the genre ironically or unironically. The runaway circus introduction, with a noticeably muted Amen break below, caps off what forms more of a slogan, than maybe an actual piece of music. For those that dig deeper on the other hand, are rewarded with some of the best wordplay of Please Note…, with ‘Do I actually like donk, or do I only like donk memes?’ being an exquisite double entendre, bar one letter change. The guitar takes a backseat in this track, still fiery but more harmonising with the synths and punchy bass, of course the defining trait of the donk, hardbass, and hardstyle sub-genre. It’s also worth pointing out the collaborative nature of this track, with the Petrol Hoers Symphony Honkestra providing backing honks, synthesised as gang vocals, from a number of fans. If anything, it proves there’s a lot of donk fans in the following. To cap those songs off, Perpetual Unit, inferred to be an optimistic take on diet and exercise, might be the most saccharine and jolly track on the album, with more than just a blanket of the carnivalesque, but it also has the most forward guitar on the whole album too. It feels a perfect blend of the Petrol Hoers and Petrol Bastard sounds, though the guitar is more thrash-inspired a la Alec Empire. The verses also encapsulate what is so much fun about this project, the delirious sense of childlike delight but seen through a distinctly adult lens. And food is delicious, if you were unaware.

In the final stretch, there’s How Many Times, an ode to the struggling creatives of the world about whether projects can be perfected or not, What’s In A Name?, an irksome debate on what an item of clothing should be called, and Biblically Accurate Horse, what resembles a tale about a party horse with a god complex, that organises its own religion. How Many Times serves more a slogan again than an actual song in some respects, with slamming guitar being far more prominent, and the song a more straightforward assault. The organ loses all sense of jubilance, and devolves into a panicked state, almost frantic, with the narrator’s determination of trying to make this project work after all. It’s also the shortest track on the album, clocking in at under two and a half minutes. Whether it speaks about this song in particular, or a general statement, isn’t entirely clear, but it’s wholly relatable, and instantly infectious. What’s In A Name? is actually an incredibly well realised drum and bass homage, akin to an early Pendulum or Sub Focus track, throbbing and buzzing with kinetic synthlines to propel towards a decidedly more metal chorus breakdown. The robot auto-tune is a neat touch too, menacing in execution, and adds an element of peril to the decision. While creative, and filled with the dextrous rhymes we’ve come to see from Petrol Hoers, it doesn’t quite serve as catchy a hook compared to the rest of the album, though it is absolutely scathing in delivery. Who knew bum bags could induce such an apparent fit of rage?

Upon reaching Biblically Accurate Horse, it feels like a final boss/end credits moment, deviating into acid techno territory, with a slight, reverb-tinged, goth flavour inflected on the spoken word verses. The analogue bleeps and jagged synths keep the pounding, ungodly bass levels in motion, creating that haze of nostalgia that may be familiar to some. That immersion gets shattered with every chorus, the dynamic suddenly switching into a breakbeat shockwave that doesn’t quite hit a home run with its hook, but offers an aggressive but deceptively pleasurable change of pace. It isn’t however the pulsing techno jolt, or the bombast of the chorus head punch that serves Biblically Accurate Horse’s finest moment. It’s the near silence, with the ominous thunder of bass escalating, that spoken with the wisdom of the universe, you are anointed as a fellow horse, with a scarily soothing timbre, and committed to dance for eternity. The chorus combusts in one final extended hurrah, but it’s that final instance of calm, in an album front-to-back of outlandish tales, frank honesty, and constant pandemonium, that becomes indelible.

For how much depth lay inside Please Note Intentional Misspelling Of Horse, it’s bonkers to believe that a ticket for admission lasts under half an hour. From a quality perspective though, Petrol Hoers rarely misses the mark, and that easily outweighs its slim running time. In a world where misjustice, misconduct, and misunderstanding run rampant on a daily basis, projects like Petrol Hoers remind us that no one is immune from struggle, but that you can process that struggle, and distil it into a must-see attraction. Should you take Petrol Hoers seriously? Of course, but not too seriously. Just like life, there’s an unparalleled sense of fun to be found here, if you let it.

Please Note Intentional Misspelling Of Horse is out now on all reputable streaming platforms. All merch and previous music can be found through Petrol Hoers’ Bandcamp page. Petrol Hoers tours frequently so keep an eye out in your local area for upcoming shows near you.

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