To immerse yourself in HTRK’s world is to call upon your greatest fears and insecurities and to fall in a fallow heap on the floor. It’s the chill sound of sensory deprivation that envelopes and preys up the mind. Occasionally it teases, thin ripples of romance and eroticism, as found on their debut Marry Me Tonight, but still dysfunctional and warped to the core. It is something only the willfully perverse would invite though their door.
Picking up the pieces following the suicide of bandmate is an excruciatingly tough and precarious position for a band to find themselves in, especially one whose sound is so emotionless and bleak, loved and unloved. Stewart’s basslines, still intact from when Work (Work, Work) was in the early stages of being written, are a potent and sad reminder of his immeasurable talent and his lynchpin position in the band.
Work (Work, Work) finds HTRK trapped by circumstance. Quoted as wanting to let the album come out as is, unfinished from when Sean took his life to let those recordings be the final word for that era of the band, Work (Work, Work) captures a band trying to restructure and redefine their sound with mixed results. The ghostly minimalism that is their calling card, the flatlining 808 pulse and metallic clang remain, but Stewart’s undulating throb which added an element of dread and discomfort to their sound no longer anchors and amplifies vocalist Jonnine Standish’s dispassionate murmurs.
The mood is confusing, which does factor in upon the disorienting nature of HTRK, but it leaves the listener questioning what is Work working towards? The closing ‘Body Double’, appears to blackly comment on their decision to continue as a band while pointing the way forward, with the lines “There’s nothing personal about it/It’s just business, baby”, playing out into the final muffled refrain, “New blood for hire…”. This is a sad record, and clearly a difficult one for any band. Work (Work, Work) should be regarded as less a new beginning and more a moment for HTRK to collect themselves before moving forward.