In interviews Project Pitchfork’s Peter Spilles refers to Santa Hates You as an outlet for music that doesn’t fit with his most well-known band’s current mode. Jolly Roger, his loosely pirate-themed new album with partner-in-crime co-vocalist Jinxy would seem to support that, although many of the songs could musically pass for mid-era Pitchfork cuts, Santa Hates You works a more playful, tongue-in-cheek angle into their lyrics and delivery. It’s a pretty good look for Spilles, who’s notorious use of malapropisms and ESL mispronunciations have often undercut his main project’s more serious ambitions.
Sticking with an uptempo, dancefloor friendly vibe throughout most of Jolly Roger‘s runtime does the album a lot of favors. The band clearly wants this to be a fun listen despite its dark tone, songs like “Fire the Cannon” and opener “Pack You Bags Honey, We’re Going to Hell” border on impish with Spilles spitting out lines like “What’s a little eternal damnation compared to tons of radiation?” with gleeful gusto. There’s plenty of catchy leads and lots of winking mock-sinister theatrics throughout; single “Raise the Devil” and “Prepare to be Boarded” both function as examples of how well that formula can work when they really lean into it. It’s a good schtick when applied liberally, but when used less blatantly it fails to elevate songs like “We Need You Alive” and “The Mad Scramble” beyond boilerplate club material, although “Monster in the Maze” is saved by some of the better programming from Peter in recent years.
At eleven songs and ending on the quite funny “Watch Out Motherfucker, I Know Karate” (which features a typically spastic guest vocal from Brian of the Gothsicles) the album doesn’t spread itself too thin, getting out while the getting is good. Considering that Spilles just released a far too long seven minute video to promote the new Project Pitchfork album it’s a surprising display of restraint, especially when Santa Hates You seem to be having so much fun. That sense of cheek serves Jolly Roger well, and the good will it generates is more than enough to make the listener overlook it’s occasional lack of luster. In a field where plenty of bands seem intent on making music that’s supposed to sound diabolical, it’s good to see someone willing to approach evil with a bit of a wink.