Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

THE HUNCHES are one of those bands where if you told me you thought they were a pack of prancing noise-rock poseurs I'd fully understand where you were coming from, and if you told me you thought they were rock gods walking the earth among the rest of us mere mortals, I'd understand that too. When I first got their new, 2nd CD "Hobo Sunrise" a few weeks back, I pretty much hated it & figured these guys were attempting to pole vault themselves into a pantheon they're nowhere near ready to join. I put it on the backburner for a bit & let it loose again this week, and now I'm pretty sure that it's some first-rate panic rock. I had my reservations about the first one, too, but it wormed its way into my shriveled heart and eventually made me a true believer & a preacher of the Hunches gospel (and by the emails I've received and frequent comments on this site, there's been some serious Hunches mania sweeping the garage punk microscenia these past two years).

I thought "Hobo Sunrise" was going to be a concept album or something, given its ridiculous title (which is one-upped on this CD by a track called "Turkey Timer Pinocchio", if you can believe it), but it's really more of the same bang-bang-bang rapid artillery fire, neatened up with a some nice mid-tempo NY DOLLS-meets-LAUGHING HYENAS gutter blues. When they truly let it fly like a careening CHEATER SLICKS/BIRTHDAY PARTY hybrid, which is just about the time the singer gathers all his pent-up shit & busts out his wailing John Brannon scream, it's a big, whomping gut punch that the band pulls off exceptionally well & which seriously encourages one to run around and break shit. The difference between this & their first is that "Hobo Sunrise" is probably more consistently spot-on -- every track is at least listenable -- and their chops have honed & tightened to the point where they can play a couple different flavors of noisy, spastic garage-based R&R. My only real gripe with The Hunches is the sense that they've been studying the grand sweep of rock history a little too closely, and have willingly or unwillingly internalized too many moves that are not their own. This is manifested in the singer's normal lackadaisical, disengaged, oh-so-rock-n-roll vocal drawl, as well as in a number of cool riffs copped from all over the underground rock spectrum. Nothing wrong with copping riffs, mind you, or even borrowing a lyric here and there, but I get the feeling that these gentlemen are trying a little harder to make themselves legendary than their young-buck talent yet allows. They're still one of my favorites, though, and I'm glad a record/disc can still polarize me in two extreme directions only weeks apart. Something interesting, different or unique must be in play. So can one write a review enthusiastically praising a band as one of the hotter combos around in 2004, while still admonishing them to do better? I think one can!