“Radical honesty might set me free,” Oliver Sim muses on “Hideous”, the opening track to his debut album Hideous Bastard. It’s a line sung before Sim openly reveals he’s been living with HIV since he was a teenager, and asks the listener if that makes him like the song title itself. It’s blunt and important confessional moments like these that make Hideous Bastard a rich and powerful album.
Produced by bandmate Jamie xx, some sounds from the album will be a comforting familiarity to those who have missed the duo’s music. Sim and The xx’s world is both lush and beautifully minimalist, giving plenty of space for the lyrics to breathe over 80s-style synth and bass.
Being open in song isn’t something particular new to Sim, as we heard it plenty on his band’s last album I See You. But what makes Sim’s lyrics on Hideous Bastard so striking lies within its themes of queerness and its comparisons to horror imagery. Sim brings light to the feelings of otherness that comes with being queer, comparing himself to movie villains or a “psycho killer in a romantic comedy” in the closing song “Run The Credits”. “Disney princes, god I hate them,” he sings. “I’m Buffalo Bill, I’m Patrick Bateman.”
Queerness and monstrosity go hand-in-hand throughout Hideous Bastard, studying the shame, mania, and terror they can both bring. Despite its dark themes, Oliver Sim’s album still has a lightness and playfulness to it that doesn’t let it come off as a fully depressing venture. Queer life can be hell, but it’s also beautiful if you look hard enough.