Giant Drag, “Lemona” and “Swan Song”
By Ashley Bardhan · June 09, 2021 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Annie Hardy, the singer and songwriter behind Giant Drag, hasn’t always liked her band. In a 2013 interview with DIY Mag, a recently sober Hardy reflected on the painkiller-induced fuzz of the group she created with drummer Micah Calabrese in 2001, calling it “a curse.” By the time the band entered the 2010s, “It was just fucked,” Hardy said. “I started to lose my mind.” Giant Drag signed to Interscope Records and put out a single full-length, only to get dropped before they could put out a second. Calabrese kept leaving the band and rejoining just to leave again. Hardy stood in the storm alone.

In the early days, fans and buzzy publications couldn’t get enough of her baby face and foul mouth onstage, and she was compared to Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. Giant Drag enjoyed support from their local L.A. venues and radio stations, eventually going on tour with bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Lemonheads, and the Cribs. In 2006, the same year Giant Drag played Coachella, Hardy was voted one of the Top 50 Coolest People by readers of NME. But after the band’s experience with Interscope, that rolling pin of momentum crashed into a wall

The remastered versions of Giant Drag’s 2004 debut EP Lemona and their final EP Swan Song from 2009, presented together on vinyl for the first time, feels like Hardy embracing the band once again, especially as its release follows the brief 2020 tour Hardy deemed “The Resurrection Tour.”

The five songs that make up Lemona are still dirty, with vocals layers and scuzzy drums smeared everywhere, but all the dust has been fanned off. Hardy always seems a little bored, pissed that her song’s subjects thought they could come near her. On “YFLMD,” which stands for “You Fuck Like My Dad,” Hardy exhales an “Okay,” over a repeating guitar line: punchy like pitting a cherry. “I made a mistake,” she drawls before repeatedly comparing a lover to her father, with much distaste.

The remastered Swan Song, too, sounds more living, flush with anxiety, indignance, and all its plumage; but it briefly lets out a gentle sigh with the achy “Heart Carl.” This acoustic track is the down coat over the remaster’s scraggly shoulders, though Hardy tries to divert from its softness just as she had done with her dick-joke-heavy stage banter. “I don’t care,” she sings, her voice nearly disappearing when she continues with “We don’t matter.” She shies from vulnerability, but not before making a sighing admission, “I never asked for this/ Does anyone ever ask for this?/ Just want somebody to reach out and kiss.”

Both Giant Drag and its frontwoman are sometimes offensive, sometimes they perform energizing displays of steely human resilience. To that first point: recently, Hardy has taken to reposting Tucker Carlson videos and linking COVID-19 vaccines to eugenics on Twitter. Although not an excuse for spreading dangerous conspiracy theories, it’s difficult to separate this online persona from Hardy’s suffering in the last ten years, which includes an abusive relationship that made her feel “totally insane” and the death of both her child and his father, California battle rapper Robert Paulson.

The impetuous rebelliousness of Hardy and these EPs make them complicated vessels for understanding Giant Drag’s past and future. That’s not really the point of Giant Drag’s insubordination, though, even if its effects could be detrimental. On these songs, Hardy isn’t interested in the introspection she started to employ in interviews over the years. Instead, she seems to say, “Here’s what I am. Take it or leave it.”

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