Agony Shorthand

Monday, July 21, 2003
THE HOSPITALS : “THE HOSPITALS”….Punishing debut CD from Portland, OR duo that won’t win many points for kindness – nor for songwriting. In their favor, these guys kick up quite a fury of uber-feedback and super-intense drum thrashing, and have got a good handle on how to make a bleak and bleary-eyed racket. They’ve ingested the lessons of BLACK FLAG's “Damaged” and at times, “My War”, and thus they’re capable of stirring up a real hornet’s nest shitstorm when they feel like it. Their big “trick” is Greg Ginn-style manipulation of the guitar’s on/off switch for maximum feedback and squeal. OK, great. I’m into it. But where are the songs? Unlike their crazed Portland and In The Red compatriots THE HUNCHES, The Hospitals are pretty much all sound and fury, signifying nothing (I made that phrase up). A ferocity this palpable has got to lead somewhere besides deeper into the gutter, and at times The Hospitals will start to bust out with what sounds like a killer grab-and-hold riff (“Again & Again” or “Missing My Hands”) only to clog it back up with a bunch of show-off feedback, meaningless choppy edits and Rollins-style croaking. So the thing’s really a mixed bag. Maybe as the little brother band to the HUNCHES they’ve got it in them to show up their brethren with an outtasite second record, much as the Stooges did with “Funhouse” vis-à-vis the MC5. But no need to get that carried away just yet.