Friday, July 18, 2008
The Hospitals - Hairdryer Peace (Self Released LP)
The Hospitals, who are in this case guitarist, keyboardist and vocalizer Adam Stonehouse, guitarist Chris Gunn, guitarist/bassist Rob Enbom. Rod Meyer also plays on "Dream Damage." From what I can tell, a San Francisco-based garage-style band, though that's fairly meaningless to me given that I had neither heard them before nor really desire to hear them playing anything other than this style for the rest of my days. If they can keep this up, they might as well be the next "most important band in the world." Sorry U2.
I'd being hearing a lot of hype about this disc, first on the Hanson/American Tapes Yahoo group where Hospitals themselves announced that this was an important album which of course got me interested but didn't exactly convince me. The more I heard though, the more I liked--it was already being hailed as a "contender for album of the year" and all that, which truthfully doesn't mean a whole lot to me but which, coming from the right people, at least ensures some degree of quality right? Right.
Side one opens with the kind of declarative yelling of, dare I say, that Sique Sique Sputnik album (you know, "I wanna be a star!" stlye...) before the drums and lurching begin, quickly refuting that claim. This is some feedback fueled fuckery, full of fuzzed out amps which sound like their blowing themselves apart. Keyboards and bass make way as the momentum subsides and some form begins to take place, albeit a most demonic and mindless one. This is some seriously junked out material that pulls from all sorts of corners--the sixties garage sound is definitely still there, but there's also the scuzzed out instrumental deconstructions of Sonic Youth. At points the group even manages to sound like a more doped up Harry Pussy, though the crude as dirt production doesn't hurt that affiliation. Really, Jandek's in there, Butthole Surfers, Daniel Johnston, plus all those guys who are into guitars sounding like the metal that they are from. Really none of this describes it at all. I'll try better. How about if the Sonics put out an album on Siltbreeze post Dead C, and Merzbow's playing alongside them? You get the point.
Highlights include the beautiful melodies buried beneath the hastening and slowing moving of a volcanic eruption by hurricane-force winds on "This Walls" along with the total sonic brutalization at its end. "Sour Hawaii" sounds like scrolling through radio stations in the Neberkanezer, with weird high pitches meshing along to the guitar wall behind. "Smeared Thinking" is basically just one monstrous riff played cavernously over and over before stopping on a dime. Or a boulder.
And then wait, wow! Side two is flipped, "Tears" is the song, and what is it? The tail end of the last track. That same fuckin riff. Nice touch. I can't tell if this makes them dumber or smarter than they sound, though for my money it's a killer move. The wild vocalizings that follow only add to the weirdnesses. "Animals Act Natural" sounds like a goth song played by a bar band who only remembered a bass and are forced to play the air conditioner and chairs in the room through their pedals. Just blown out, blown up, blown mind slaying.
The lack of a drummer actually seems pretty essential to their sound, removing any need for steady beats. Not only does this make it awfully easy to have all those geetars sliding together in some kind of manic orgy, but it also allows pretty interesting internal rhythms to develop organically according to the sounds themselves. It makes it that much less grounded and meanderingly uncared for. There is very little that is precious--and nothing that is holy--about this. "Dream Damage," along with a few others, does have drums (or at least items that are hit), but they're so crude that they don't do much to detract from the overall effect, instead making it seem that much more grinding and mechanically menacing. The guitar uproars on that trick in particular are, to say the least, driving. "Scan the Floor for Food" follows, definitely containing some Swell Maps pop song buried beneath. They're on the surface though crawling along as the title suggests. This song especially sounds like what your favorite local garage band sounds like playing three houses down in their basement. Kind of the feel of the whole album really, though it all remains highly present and effecting despite its detached nature. The last song, "Don't Die," could be the next single of the year if it weren't recorded to moss. Some bonus track follows, ending it on a real downer note... is there a saxophone in the mix there even? Probably hearing things again.
When the album ends on the first chord of a new verse a great gap is left in the room. The silence is deafening, to steal a phrase. It's really something, enormous in its tactility. Not to mention that the pseudo-tropical palm tree cover art and clear vinyl only make the mystery that much bigger. A beautiful release whose first 500 copies are gone. I hear there's a reprinting coming though, so snag it before it's gone forever. Well worth the listen.