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Friday, May 15, 2009

Ho-Hum - Local

Name: Ho-Hum
Album: Local
Year: 1996
Style: Alternative Rock
Similar Bands: Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom, Jayhawks, Spoon, Counting Crows, Paul Westerberg
"One-Word" Review: honest-carefree-radio-play-naivety
Based Out Of: Little Rock, Arkansas
Label: Universal Records
Local - Cover, Back & Liner Notes
Local - Inside Liner Notes & CD

Local (1996)
  1. Around the World 2:51
  2. Get Down 4:10
  3. Pills and Guns 3:31
  4. Disappear 4:40
  5. Don't Go Out With Your Friends Tonight 2:54
  6. Moon Lies Beautifully 4:10
  7. Wake up Call 3:27
  8. One Out Of Ten 2:34
  9. It's A Lie 3:53
  10. Frozen 3:19
  11. I Can't Swim 3:36
  12. Here She Comes 3:12
  13. Superhuman 3:34
  14. Pure D. Wrong 3:49
Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Clive Langer - Producer (Madness, Bush, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Elvis Costello, TMBG, Dogs Die In Hot Cars, Morissey, Bowie)
Alan Winstanley - Producer (Madness, Bush, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Elvis Costello, TMBG, Dogs Die In Hot Cars, Morrissey, Bowie)
Tom Lewis - Executive Producer
Stephen Marcussen - Mastering
Lynn Goldsmith - Photography
Kevin Kirby - Cover Painting , Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin, Vox (Mulehead)
Sandie Lee Drake - Art Director
Lenny Bryan - Guitar, Piano, Keys, Vox
Rod Bryan - Bass, Piano, Screams, Vox
Dave Hoffpauir - Drum, Vox (Mulehead)
James Hooker - Organ
Luis Jardin - Percussion
James Brown Jr - Horns
Harvey Thompson - Horns
Charles Rose - Horns
Vincent Ciesielk - Horns

Unknown-ness: I never heard of these guys when I bought the CD at Streetlight records in Santa Cruz for fifty cents about 10 years ago. I liked the artwork and look of the cover: the cartoony ghosts seem happy-go-lucky mixed with the boredom band name of Ho-Hum (which is also a great onomatopoeia for the ghosts) made for a reason to buy it. The picture on the back also has a run down carney feel to it, and the band looks like a bunch of average guys, so it shows at least a bit of not-sucking promise. And it was fifty cents.

Album Review: So apparently this album was produced by the amazing duo that is responsible for many great albums of Madness, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, They Might Be Giants and Elvis Costello. How the album actually comes across is anybody’s guess, but the pedigree is there. The album begins with “Around the World” an alternative, Lemonheads-ish melody, and a lot of little musical changes that are all full of hooks and are interesting. There is an organ in the background that carries the song, and adds a psychedelic ? and the Mysterians quality to it. The vocals are not that competent, but they are good in an honest way. A buzzing fades into the next song “Get Down,” which is slower and more alt-country than the first song, feeling more like Buffalo Tom or the Jayhawks. There is a short, dark section that mimic’s the heavy guitar hook of Enter Sandman. There is a transitional bridge of repetitive note playing and it feeds right into the chorus for another verse, before ending with the “Exit Light/Enter Night” riff. A drum fill leads into “Pills and Guns” which feels like a fast pace Spoon song (“June’s Foreign Spell” to be precise). It’s not quite as catchy as Spoon, but if it were a little less produced, and more focused, it could easily be a Spoon song. But on the other hand, I can hear a little Counting Crows in his voice, the way he ends his lines, the down turn of the vocal note is similar. “Disappear” is a slow, drawn out mumbling song. Some kind of synthesized sounding horn and string sections appear here very briefly, which build the song up, but it quickly limps back into its slow groove. It sounds a little Pearl Jam-ish in his vocal delivery. “Don't Go Out With Your Friends Tonight” is an upbeat rock song, sung like a true radio-friendly alternative garbage track from that time period. I’m thinking like Everclear or something. The chorus has a little catchy part to it, and the secondary chorus is even catchier, and this does redeem the song a bit, but the verse to start off with was kinda lame. Ok, the song is good. I take it back. There are a lot of little intricate catchy parts like in the opening track that keep it interesting. “Moon Lies Beautifully” is a meandering half ballad, half fuzzy, introspective grunge song. It picks up like a Lemonheads song (or like Sugar) again. The vocals are not over-exerted, but they are meaningful and inspired all the same. “Wake up Call” features a wailing guitar played repetitively like a siren, I’m thinking Dinosaur Jr. here with more Eddie Vedder-ish vocals, but not quite as annoying. The chorus features a shifting in and out of emotional near shouting and settling back into a monotone rolling vocal. It is actually pretty catchy.

In “One Out Of Ten,” you can feel the momentum building up in the chugging guitar chords, and the stutter-stepping vocal melody. It is unleashed in the same Replacements / Paul Westerberg way of fast pace guitars, that are not threatening, and more anthemic. When it comes back after a background count off, it becomes very toe-tappingly catchy and ends at a place where you wish there was more of it. It is like a faster version of the chorus in the Shawn Colvin song “Sunny Came Home” The next song slumps down into an alt-country song with “It's A Lie.” But it picks up some fuzzed out guitars for the chorus, which is just basically a chance for the instruments to rock out rather than change up the vocal melody. The instrumentation in the chorus sound like Better Than Ezra’s “Good.” At the end it goes back and forth from lite harmonica sleepy jamming to hard, heavy fuzz-rock until it fades out on the jamming. “Frozen” starts off immediately catchy. But the chorus feels like it should be catchier than it is. It feels like there is too much noise and production that drowns the melody in guitars that don’t help the cause. This song feels like it should have been included on the Singles soundtrack. “I Can't Swim” is a slow shoe-gazing melodic ballad. The melody is slow and droning, but the music is trying to be rocking. And it does rock out with accompanying vocals in small sections, but it comes across as a little kid digging his feet in the dirt, shy and embarrassed about not being able to swim. “Here She Comes” is even slower and mopey than the previous song, but it has a positive, head held high feeling. The breakdown is a couple measures of good Elvis Costello inspired song structure. But a shouting vocal ruins any progression of the song. The catchy chorus reminds me a little of Graham Parker too. “Superhuman” begins with electric guitar and a rhythm guitar added like an oldies slow dance song. It is a lazy, care free sun hammock lemonade sipping tune. A trumpet helps push the feeling along too. And it ends in a three note song wrap-up. “Pure D. Wrong” has lots of pent up energy, and is a good recap and way to end the record. It gets going and is fun to ride along with. The vocals are an enjoyable trip along the instrument melody, full of fuzzy guitars and quick, driving drums, and guitar solo fills. The music reminds me of Richard Butler’s Love Spit Love. And with an record unplug wind down, the album is over.

Stand Out Track: Around The World

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