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We All Have Hooks For Hands

  Afternoon Records  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Infinity Milk  

The Indie Pop template used to be a lot different from this. Simple anthemic guitars, swept away on waves of synths and string sections to downbeat and serious lyrical observations. The type of thing that used to pay Dave Friedman's bills and make Belle & Sebastian fans brave the outdoors to purchase. Perhaps it peaked with the world wide popularity of Arcade Fire and their stadium filling songs of despair, hope and the human condition. Interestingly though there has been a shift. Bands like the Animal Collective and Broken Social Scene broke the ground and MGMT took it almost as far as the mainstream. Suddenly a sense of fun was back on the agenda.

Amongst this backdrop lies We Have Hooks For Hands. Hailing from the obscure location of Sioux Falls, South Dakota (at least obscure to someone from this side of the Atlantic), this 9 piece makes the kind of life affirming, experimental pop tunes that could trouble those bands that have gone on to bigger things, and puts them firmly amongst other underrated acts in the genre such as Freelance Whales. Their new E.P Girls is a breezy, summery affair that hums along with enough charm and wit to make the gloomiest of fans of The National reach for a lollypop.

Opening track Changes starts with the kind of intensity you might find on a Flaming Lips instrumental about the infinity of the Universe before transforming into a simple beat with a jaunty guitar line that The Cribs have made a career of. Enthusiastic vocals enter and the transformation is complete. The chorus is light and the vocals a touch too low in the mix, but it does enough to keep you listening. As we progress towards the end of the track, a vocal call and response materializes and builds to a suitably climatic ending, with a denser sound. "It's not like it's just this town that needs adjusting" is a lyric that jumps out here, perhaps alluding to things to come from an overall theme of transformation. All in all an interesting statement of intent for a band reaching beyond the limits of their surroundings.

Lead single Girls is next, starting with the similar plodding rhythm to LCD Soundsystem's All My Friends. The opening lyrical couplet of "We all love girls, but girls love flowers and booze" risks alienating over half the world's population with its generalization, but still, that isn't really important. It is delivered with a sense of fun and mischief and sets the tone nicely. The track gets bigger and progresses with more instrumentation added. The use of what the band credit as a "Girl Choir" is an effective measure, balancing out the hormones. A conversation breaks out between the male singer and the girls, leading them to label him an asshole when he threatens to walk off in the heat of an argument. A horn interlude breaks up the fighting talk and the instrumentation is stripped back to a simple guitar and drum before slowly building back up. The track ends rather abruptly, you can hear it going in other directions, but that is a minor criticism on what is a very strong choice of single and highlight of the collection.

Third track Amy's Room trudges along with an effortless Pavement-esque riff, that sounds nicely positioned in the middle of the E.P. On this occasion, the Girl Choir is used fully as a vocal instrument to great effect, giving it a feel of Polyphonic Spree and Los Campesinos as well. The lyrics, seem to be about an on/off relationship. "Leaving on a train, I'm going far away. Leave the masquerade, oh all the way" is the closing refrain, maybe echoing earlier sentiments in Changes to broaden horizons. The horns return to lead us to another satisfying conclusion.

It is here where the E.P does start to falter though. Trapped is probably the weakest of the tracks on Girls and does seem somewhat out of place, since it is a lazy Alt-Country affair that meanders aimlessly. Again it builds, but this time the extra instrumentation sounds labored and almost predictable. It seems like a lack of ideas may have produced this and sure enough, nearly 30 seconds of guitar solo on a track that totals 2 minutes 38 seconds is enough evidence. Thankfully, this is a temporary glitch as closer Games is much more of what we have come to expect.

A bright melody opens the song with horns perhaps more prominent than previously seen. The feel is reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens at his most content. It is a communal celebration and should be the centre piece of any future live set. Again, the trick is quite simple - build until chorus, deconstruct, minimalize and then rebuild to finale. It's not groundbreaking, but when it is done well it works and We Have Hooks for Hands show they have the ability to do this again. The chattering of the Girl Choir and the boys in the band transforms into a feel good sing-a-long, and the party is completed with a fanfare. A fitting end.

So what does this E.P say about the future of fun, catchy indie pop? Girls doesn't take it in to any new territory, that is for sure, but the arranging capabilities displayed show an acute awareness of what it takes to be a contender. I expect the forthcoming album will be in a similar vein, but will be bigger still and show that We Have Hooks For Hands are more than just a one trick pony. Now where can I get one of those lollypops I hear so much about?

P.S - Rating of 5 would have been a 6, but Trapped really is that bad!

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