(4 out of 5)
When HORSE the Band first punctured consciousnesses in the early ‘00s, the general reaction was “Oh, how adorably post-modern.” After all, here were some kids who seemed to have been weaned exclusively on video games and heavy metal, and had miraculously managed to combine those influences into something bracing and just a bit weird. Their “Nintendocore” sound was on the more accessible end of a then-fashionable wave of 8-bit music-making; but while said trend quickly became tiresome, HORSE the Band did not become the least bit wearying. Instead, the group has continually reconfigured itself, re-imagining its musical approach until now, with DESPERATE LIVING, they’ve delivered a disc that capitalizes on their quirks while packing the same sort of wallop that their now-legendary live shows deliver. Synthesizers have taken a notable backseat to piled-on guitars (although on “Big Business,” HTB shows just how heavy a digital keyboard can sound), and the structures upon which this album’s songs are built are among the most complex and effective of the band’s career. There’s still plenty of ironic pleasure to be gotten from tunes like “Horse the Song” and “Golden Mummy Golden Bird,” but for the most part, DESPERATE LIVING is a dark and grinding disc that wallows in its relentless attack.