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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Human Hands - Bouncing To Disc

Name: Human Hands
Album: Bouncing to Disc (Complete H.H. volume 1)
Year: 1997
Style: Punk/New Wave
Similar Bands: ? & Mysterians, Code Blue, A's, XTC, Talking Heads, Gang Of Four, The Planets, Franz Ferdinand
"One-Word" Review: Jittery Art Punk
Based Out Of: Pasadena, Cali
Label: Grand Theft Audio
Bouncing To Disc - Cover & Back
Bouncing To Disc - Liner Notes & CD
Bouncing To Disc - Photo Liner Notes
Bouncing To Disc - Photo Liner Notes
Bouncing To Disc - Lyric Liner Notes
Bouncing To Disc - Lyric Liner Notes
Bouncing To Disc - Lyric & Credit Liner Notes
Bouncing To Disc - Credit Liner Notes
Bouncing To Disc (1997)
  1. New Look 2:44
  2. Dilemmas 2:59
  3. Fair 3:16
  4. I Got Mad 2:51
  5. Trains Vs Planes 3:59
  6. Stupid World 3:38
  7. Upside Down 4:44
  8. My Kitchen 4:05
  9. Lurk (live) 4:01
  10. Dogfood 2:07
  11. Go Existential (studio) 5:03
  12. Jubilee 3:56
  13. Rapture Of the Deep (live) 3:29
  14. Hex (live) 3:00
  15. Phantoms in the Darkroom 7:06
  16. Walk A Crooked Line 2:54
  17. Insomnia 3:38
  18. State Of Mine (1988) 2:50
Album Rating (1-10): 9.5

Members & Other Bands:
Dennis Duck - Drums, Percussion, Keys, Vox (Dream Syndicate)
Juan Gomez - Guitar, Bass, Vox (The Romans)
Bill Noland Keys, Cornet, Vocals (Wall of Voodoo)
Rick Potts - Bass, Guitar, Sax, Saw, Vox, Drawings (Solid Eye)
David Wiley - Vox, Guitar, Sax, Percussion
Susan Seager - Photos
Cassimus - Photos
Andre Knecht - Restoration, Editing, Mastering
Michael Rozon - Index Time Coding
Michael Uhlenkott - Boolket Design, percussion
Ed Barger - Engineering, Mixing
Bill Noland - Mixing, Engineering
Ron Kane - Engineering
Michael Hamilton - Engineering, Mixing
Don Bonebrake - Marimba
Keith Mitchell - Steel Drum
Avi Kipper - Engineering & Mixing
Paul B Butler - Engineering & Mixing

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of these guys when I initially bought this album back in 1997. I picked it up to listen to it because I thought the name Human Hands referenced the Elvis Costello song. Ironically, I learned that it is similar music to Elvis’s early stuff, but as this was a compilation of their catalogue from 1980, their name preceded his song “Human Hands.” This is one album that since purchasing, I’ve listened to it many times, and have even gotten to see them live recently, when they opened for El Vez in Philly despite one member passing away (D. Wiley). The band is still together and has released their proper first full length recently too. But going back to the packaging, I was not inspired to buy the cd based on the cover art work. It does not really look like what the music represents. In fact, if I did not get the chance to listen to the album before I bought it, I probably would have not picked it up for the $2.50 price.

Album Review:
“New Look” is a really really great song featuring all the jittery spirit that the best new wave/punk bands have. The music is just as bouncy as the lyrics, and the organ sound in the background adds a psychedelic spirit that summons ? & The Muysterians into the 80’s. The topic is also very attractive, putting down bands and style as being nothing but a fa├žade and fluff with no underlying talent. This is a solid song, that can only be built off of greatly.
“Dilemmas” sounds like a start stopping, jittery XTC song, featuring the similar keyboards and a strong catchy group effort in the chorus. His vocals are an attractive mix of The Talking Heads and Gang Of Four. The song bounces up and down and makes you want to move. The delivery in the chorus is a great release of the building panic that the music evokes in the verse.
“Fair” begins with the organ in a musical scale straight down. The music becomes dark, and the vocals are a monotone, two part mix, starting with a fuzzy, low-fi distance sound, only to be followed up with a closer, louder, right next to your ear whisper. The music is carnival in nature, and revolves like a continual spiraling top. This sounds like the band I came to know, and will review eventually here, the Planets. After the near perfection of these first three songs, it is a wonder where there is to go on the album.“I Got Mad” begins with a drum and bass quiet match, yet it is full of potential. The guitar comes in over top recreating a near perfect version of XTC’s “Radio’s In Motion” The vocals are distant and removed, as if sung through a quieted megaphone. The style of singing is the same as it had been throughout the album: a relaxed, exhausted sounding singing, where he lays of the vocals over the music rather than following its melody, but using the music as notes as where to start and stop singing.
“Trains Vs Planes” is a dance track featuring the angular drum/cymbal technique bands like Franz Ferdinand take. This is a narrative comparison song, reminding me of Oingo Boingo’s “Reptiles and Samurai” if only by structure. I remember they played this song live when I saw them. The song is another great example of building and tension release, where the verse is ultra simple and repetitive and the chorus is musically catchy and the lyrics are chaotically thrown together, cramming syllabus in to make the sentences fit. It feels more like a Dead Milkmen song with the vocal style and musical content and silliness.
“Stupid World” is back to the XTC Go2 synth and jittery structure musically. The vocals have the cadence and emotion much like David Byrne. The music delves into evil carnival music, even the lyrics remark about this by singing about a roller coaster. The song is a very teen/juvenile theme, and it ends just calling the entire world stupid, like a normal teenager’s angsty argument“Upside Down” has an upbeat, and pleasant horn sounding synth effect. The vocals are only sung in the chorus, and the rest of the song reminds me the little I know about Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. This is a good example, of what I would believe to be Art Punk. The lyrics paint quite a specific picture with each description. “My Kitchen” Features the watery guitar style I like about Track Star, and the psych organ. The vocals are again, styled like Byrne, and the music reminds me if a Talking Heads song was played by the Beach Boys. The over all effect is a very pleasant head nodding fast pace tune, full of oldies structure and art-punk abstract metaphoric lyrics.“Lurk” is done live, and features squealing horns over rushed chord changes. The vocals are deep and chanted, almost sounding stupid, or Neanderthalic. The short sections are repetitive but the guitar holds it together. The instrumental tempo changes break up the monotony, and blossom into their own fast paced sections before returning to the verse repetitive section.

“Dogfood” is an angular, jittery guitar driven instrumental song with equally frantic drumming. There is a rising and falling wind howl layered in the background which is unusual for the song’s tempo, but does not detract from its vibe, if only adding a haunting element.“Go Existential” begins with a dance drum beat, and a chaotically picked guitar, and normal sounding new wave synth building. One the vocals begin, the music comes together as a jumping poppy package. It too follows the dictionary definition of jittery pop with both the music and vocals that they have set forth on the album thus far. The instrumental break is weird and wacky for the sake of being jarring and making the listener wonder what’s next...part of the existential theme, no doubt. The song then picks up it melody and basic design right before the vocals come back. It ends with some carnival, carousel sounding musical stylings right before it adds a final round of the verse/chorus singing of the song’s title“Jubilee” begins with tribal drum beats, furthing the comparison to Talking Heads. The vocals are monotone and melancholy, but the chorus picks up like a Franz Ferdinand song, as the vocals croon over the upbeat danceable burst of musical energy that the verse builds up to very well. I remember them playing this song live, too. It is a fun clapping, dancing around event of a song. The synth is a simple one note at a time structure, and it leads up to an instrumental version of the chorus. They really bring out the xylophone at the very end to add a little last bit of tribal sound before it ends
“Rapture Of the Deep” sounds like a Residents song. It’s keyboards carnivally rise and fall and the vocals are musically sung a bit more than the Residents, and a little less creepily, but it has a darkness to it that never goes away. There are some weird swirling electronic effects that sound like a modem dialing up to the internet, and it regroups back into the previous formula to support the overly angry and emotional display of vocals.
“Hex” is an instrumental track that fades in on a chaotic musical storm of organ sounding synth rising and falling and a bass that bounces around regardless of the song’s melody. The drums remain steady, as the backbone of the track. Around two minutes, it takes a breather, but it builds up for 30 seconds back into the rushed onslaught that would spur the most stand still audience into bouncing off eachother.
“Phantoms in the Darkroom” is more of a tribal head shrinker theme song than a celebratory tribal dance song. It has the elements of a chant and steady beat of bongo drums that sound as if they are part didgeridoo. The guitars are slowly added in bit parts, and around 2:30, the song’s tempo becomes more rushed and stressful, like you are watching a bomb tech cut the appropriate wires. The mystical, gothic keyboard somehow transform the song from the sacred sacrificial song that it began like into a dark new wave ballad; at least as close to a ballad as Human Hand will get to. Again, this song becomes a Talking Heads song by the end of the track.
“Walk A Crooked Line” feels like a different song. It is trying to be sung too much, and seems out of character from the direction the album was going. It is a repetitive song with the extremely short chorus repeating and popping up in random (but not musically random) places. The whole song just seems to be a “wait for it” song, where the building in the verse could break into the chorus at any point. It keeps you on the edge of your seat by doing this, but it still feels out of place.
“Insomnia” begins just like a Mega Man level...it is Gemini Man that I am thinking of. It is a very video game music-y instrumental song. There are break downs where the mechanism goes haywire, but it fixes it self and returns to the normal theme after a brief restructuring.
“State Of Mine (1988)” was apparently made in 1988, and as such, came 8 years after much of the material on the album. Its vocals sound removed, and a little more settled; definitely less energetic and jittery. It sounds like a much smoother ? and the Mysterians. There is an instrumental with swirling keys and a synth horn. It returns to the dark themed verse, which is catchier than the chorus.

Stand Out Track: New Look


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