Making the Road
Eyyyowwww, Japanese power pop that will make me get up and bounce up and down like my legs are pogo sticks. With an idiotic smile plastered to my face, I can do this all night long. This trio -- Ken Yokoyama (guitars/vocals), Akihiro Nanba (bass/vocals), and Akira Tsuneoka (the tsunami of the drums) -- kicks out happy harangues like "Teenagers are All Assholes" with wild abandon and not a touch of self-consciousness or concern about the fact that all of these licks have been done to death. Hi-Standard is so sure of its fun self that they sound fresh and meaningful, and this is no easy thing to do. Maybe it's because, unlike so many of the other bands in this genre, Hi-Standard does not try and be macho or overly "punk," self-important or funny; "No Heroes" could be about their philosophy or about themselves.
This is an excellent recording, done at Echo House, Roppongi Japan, mixed in San Francisco, and mastered at Oceanview in Los Angeles. Sometimes when this many fingers get in the pie, a project gets "too handled" -- ya know, diluted beyond the point of having any urgency or real feel (just listen to most things on the radio these days to get a feeling of this). This doesn't seem to happen here. I would have liked to have the vocals mixed up a bit louder, but then that's just me, and I'm sure others would find them just fine.
Hi-Standard is not afraid to mix in bits of the old rock and roll, ska, jazz, tango, etc., to get things sounding interesting and is willing to change a groove before it gets too stale. In this way, they really are rebels with a grin -- well-written, well-executed and interesting. Some other bands that claim to be of the "Green Day" genre would do well to try to capture the fun, cleverness, and freedom of this band. Hi-Standard is my kind of sushi, fresh, tasty, and fun. (BW)
(Fat Wreck Chords -- P.O. Box 193690, San Francisco, CA. 94119; http://www.fatwreck.com/)
With two out of three of the members of Hot Snakes having done time in Drive Like Jehu and Rocket From the Crypt, it's no surprise that Hot Snakes sound like a cross between the two bands. (And if you're not familiar with both, go pick up Yank Crime and Circa:Now!, respectively, and come back here once you've heard both those classics.) But what does that mean? In the worst case scenario, I suppose it could mean bad Elvis imitations over 7 1/2 minute quiet ambling textured guitar that goes nowhere. Thankfully, it's not that at all -- in fact, exactly the opposite. Hot Snakes combine the ruthless efficiency and drive of the tautest Rocket From the Crypt songs with the chaotic noise and vocals of Drive Like Jehu. There's some keyboards thrown in, but they're the noisy fucked-up variety, not the cheesy MIDI variety, and lend to a grimier and more potent sound than I expected. Put another way, I decided that I had to own this record after listening to 12 seconds of the first song. While the 15 or so minutes of empty space before the bonus track are a gratuitous annoyance, it's the only unwelcome thing about this album. Let's hope that the Hot Snakes take after Rocket's longevity, and don't follow Jehu's mercilessly brief lifespan. (DD)
(Sympathy For The Record Industry; Swami Recordings -- P.O. Box 620428, San Diego, CA. 92162)
Hot Water Music
Hot Water Music aren't neophytes to the post-hardcore tapestry. The Gainesville quartet has been slugging it out in the scene for a while now, and have a multitude of various splits, full-lengths, 7-inches and compilation appearances to their credit. To me, they come off as a cross between all the best aspects of Fugazi, Jawbreaker, and Texas Is The Reason. If you're a HWM virgin, the raspy vocals may seem out of place over the melodic riffage, but you get sucked into it pretty quick, especially by this album (which was produced by Walt Schriefels, and kudos to you if you get that lame joke). "Southeast First" kicks the album off with a bang, and just as in their amazing and legendary live show, HWM keep into it all guns blazing until the final second of the final track. In particular, "Jet Set Ready," "No Division," and the tribute track "In Song" really got stuck in my head after only an initial listen. If you're into the post-hardcore sonic landscape, you definitely need to check these guys out, and the next time HWM comes to town make it a point to go see the incendiary live show they put on. Definitely a good example of a band and audience feeding off of each other's energy. That synergy is the only thing that this album lacks. (MHo)
(Some Records -- 122 W. 29 St. 4th Floor, New York, NY. 10001; http://www.some.com/)
File Under Ramones
No shit. This Ramones tribute album by The Huntingtons sounds so uncannily like the real thing that it's scary. If I didn't know better, I'd say this was the Ramones. This could go both ways: if you want to hear the Ramones, why not just go buy a Ramones album and give the Huntingtons the finger? I think that this album should be looked at as sort of a gateway thing -- check it out, groove to the good modernized Ramones covers (their choice of songs is pretty cool, picks from the entire Ramones spectrum, from the self titled debut to Adios Amigos, and even Pet Sematary!), laugh at the Ramones-esque charade that the Huntingtons put on -- i.e., surnames, leather, etc. -- and let that pique your interest to then go check out some of the Huntingtons' original stuff on Tooth and Nail. It's pretty good stuff. And yes, the count-offs are included on this album. (MHo)
(Tooth & Nail Records -- P.O. Box 12698, Seattle, WA. 98111; http://www.toothandnail.com/)