A few songs by Hoax Hunters floated by the random stream of music i listen to at the office, and drew my attention. I queued up the album and listened, and in a few minutes decided that this album was worthy of further investigation.
The next step was to head out to The Internet and read about the band. I discovered that they are a three piece from Richmond, VA and are into Husker Du and the Minutemen. I can see that influence in their music.
But the thing that really caught my eye was that at the top of their Facebook wall was a link to an article on Esquire about Mac McCaughan. And then on their Tumblr i saw that they are opening for Mr. McCaughan at the Richmond show on his 2015 solo tour.
"These people," i thought, "are kindred souls! If i met them, we could ramble for hours about our love of The 'Chunk!" (In case you haven't guessed, EvilSponge consists of some rabid Superchunk fans. Really rabid. I mean, do we need to get Malimus some shots or something???)
Huh. Superchunk fans who like fast mid 80s American punk? Sign me up. And the record starts exactly right. Hoax Hunters (their theme song, i guess) is sloppy old punk that reminds me of the first few Replacement releases, or perhaps early Buzzcocks. The guitar is a blur and the rhythm just sort of thrusts the whole thing along, moving forward haphazardly while the vocals are buried under the guitar roar, kind of like an afterthought. This type of music warms my soul and gets my feet tapping.
Volume is more of the same, messy and loud. They shine things up a little on Copy of a Copy, which references So Cal punk like Face to Face, or Social Distortion, and is thus less sloppy sounding.
The drums become really loud on In The Background as the song builds to a real roar. On Breathe Hoax Hunters play with guitar riffs that could have been on No Pocky For Kitty. It's catchy, but the vocals are deeper, almost growled.
It all comes together at the middle of the record. Perception of Choice is slowed down and stretched out, at 4:55, over two minutes longer than any of the previous tunes. This slower pace works for them. The voice is hushed on the verses and wailing on the chorus. The guitar chimes a catchy little riff that rises and swells under a fuzzy distortion, roaring like Superchunk on the choruses. I really like this one. It’s a really great tune.
Hoax Hunters follow this up with Glitterbomb (intro) naturally followed by Glitterbomb. The (intro) is catchy, the guitar gravelly and the drumming flat and thudding. It tears along with distortion and great rhythm. When it transitions to the actual song (or when the intro is over, whatever), the band comes in, yelling in harmony like something off of Repeater. It has that angry feel to it that early Fugazi had. But MacKaye and company never would have sung about glitterbombs…
The guitarist throws in a really great riff on Riskless Business, and i like the dull thud of the drums over the blurry, back in the mix vocals that are chanting. Of course, they are chanting "Too Big to fail", re-asserting their serious and political Fugazi-damaged hardcore roots. I approve.
Six/Five is another Superchunkish poppy punk tune. Not bad at all. But then the band begin to jump the shark a little. Erase is dissolving in real time (as you listen!) under a mass of distortion for about 5 minutes, which is at least 4 minutes too long.
Then Hoax Hunters end the album with 2 minutes of squealing noise that they call F.Y.T.W.. This is one of those tracks that does not work AT ALL except in the context of playing a physical record, and then it only works just barely. But when i rip all of the MP3s and put them on my phone and spread them around through random play, if this track had kept appearing, i would have just deleted the album. Bands need to be more careful about this kind of shit in the modern listening world. I am willing to bet that 99.99% of all people who listen to this record get about 10 seconds into this song then skip ahead a good bit to see if it really actually BECOMES a song, and when it doesn't, they just skip it altogether, and maybe even remove it from their device, so as to never have to put up with that shit every again... It’s annoying. Please stop.
So, yeah, the album is really enjoyable, but the last seven minutes out of about 36 minutes is a complete waste. Let's just pretend the album ended on Six/Five, which would have made it a little short, but at least would not have ended with a waste of my listening time. At that point this is a pretty good record. Lo-fi, punkish, brash, loud, angry, bitter -- what's not to like?