Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
Review of It Hugs Back’s Laughing Party
ithugsback.co.ukThough I only gave it a very passing mention when it came out, I was really quite fond of British quartet It Hugs Back’s 2009 debut Inside Your Guitar; after all, I described their aesthetic of narcoleptic vocals, humming organs, and understated guitar heroics as a charming blend of American Analog Set and Yo La Tengo – how could I not like its fuzzy, mid-fi charms? But I lost track of them between then and now, though not without reason: first, they found their way off of 4AD – that wouldn’t have helped them stay on my radar – and frontman Matthew Sims became touring guitarist with Wire, so that would have been keeping them otherwise busy as well.
They’ve still found the time to regroup and record a second album, however, and Laughing Party kicks off with as much of a declaration of intent as you can imagine by way of a raw and squalling 15-minute guitarfest called “The Big E” that’s built on one repeated king-size riff but with enough undulations to keep it hypnotic rather than monotonous. Though the necessary ingredients were all there on Inside Your Guitar, there was nothing to hint that the band had the vision or ambition to attempt something quite so epic; good on them. Unsurprisingly, nothing that follows it on Laughing Party has the same sort of scope – the nine-and-a-half minute “Times Square” makes an argument but jams at a more meandering pace – but the band don’t fully fall back into the sleepy ways of their debut. Sometimes the tempos slow back down, but even so enough noise and aggression – not to mention some extra sparkle and jangle – seeps into the cracks to make Party a solid step forward.
What they were doing was fine, but the added dynamics and melodicism are hard to argue against as improvements. Tunes like the crashing, hooky single “Half American” or “Happy” are excellent representations of what It Hugs Back 2012 can do that it was hard to imagine the 2009 edition pulling off. Laughing Party isn’t likely to make It Hugs Back household names or even make 4AD regret their decision to let them go, but for those who dig on what they do, it strikes just the right balance of comfortable and adventurous.
The Quietus has a quick interview with Simms, a premiere of the video for “Half American” and a stream of the new record.
Video: The Hives – “Go Right Ahead”
The Vaccines have released the first video from their second album, No Hope For The Vaccines. It’s out September 3.
Video: The Vaccines – “No Hope”
Video: Pet Shop Boys – “Invisible”
Los Campesinos! wish Paul Heaton of Housemartins/Beautiful South fame a happy 50th birthday by way of a cover of “I Love You (But You’re Boring)” off Welcome To The Beautiful South – I really loved that record in high school – at Pitchfork.