Hippies is the latest from Austin, Texas trio Harlem. Their Matador Records debut is full of catchy garage rock that draws on decades of tradition. Matador has been a purveyor of quality independent music for upwards of 20 years now with only the occasional misstep.
Harlem brings recollections of veteran label-mates like Pavement and newer signings like Columbus band Times New Viking (though mostly less abrasive). Their guitar sound draws from these bands as well as the reverb-drench tones of sixties surf rock and The Sonics.
They band sometimes strays into derivative territory, but Matador execs clearly know potential when they hear it. Harlem is full of youthful enthusiasm and sound like they actually enjoy playing music. The lyrics usually stick to the humorous and mundane. Things are fast and fun (only two cuts are over three minutes in length).
Though much of the album is straightforward and almost painfully retro and trendy, little glimmers of creative arranging show themselves here and there. Artier moments include a fuzzed out section of psychedelia at the end of “Faces” and the noisy drum ruckus on the choruses of “Torture Me” while one of the two vocalists (they sound extraordinarily similar) sings “why do you talk to me girl?”
It’s hard to hate a band that sounds as joyous as Harlem. Few of songs are in a minor key; a happy and upbeat tone dominates. Fortunately, the happy-go-lucky goofiness always comes across as genuine, never cheesy and insincere. These guys are worth a listen. Love or hate it, you’ll probably feel a little jealous that you aren’t having as much fun. 4 out 5 stars.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment