» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard
Suicide Squeeze

Rating: 5.5/10 ?

March 29, 2005
Church Gone Wild Rating: 3/10
Chirpin Hard Rating: 8/10
Average Rating: 5.5/10

Though their live performances have been described as nothing short of extraordinary, Hella's recorded output has always been a classic case of "almost, but not quite." Their spastic drumming and the company they keep has pinned them somewhere between Locust-y noise punk and instrumental math rock, but their songs have always been so, well, un-song-like that they also tend to get lumped in with punishing skree outfits like Lightning Bolt and experimental prog-punks Ruins. All of these tags don't quite fit, however, and more disappointingly, any of these comparisons will ultimately disappoint, as Hella's lack of focus and all-over-the-map style have left them somewhere between being a unique, important voice in independent music and a pair of confused kids just fucking around.

Drummer Zach Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim have pulled an Outkast on this release, however, giving the spazz-starved masses two solo albums that split Hella's frustrating mix of free-form pseudo-improv and AP calculus level mathematics into two poles, with Hill taking the more freaked-out route on Church Gone Wild and Seim sticking to calculated riffs on Chirpin Hard.

Hill's disc captures everything that's easy to hate about Hella. According to the liner notes, it's meant to be digested as a single 60 minute composition, though it has been divided into twelve "movements." If the album's structure alone doesn't smack of pretension, its aesthetics will. Hill's virtuosic drumming provides a promising foundation, but he piles layer upon layer of static noise, out of tune guitars, grating monotone vocals and shapeless piano lines to form a hulking mass of impenetrable noise.

Aside from the drumming, none of the music's individual components are very engaging, and due to the extreme level of sonic clutter, the same goes for the songs as wholes. The vocals prove to be particularly disrupting, detracting from otherwise moderately catchy passages by attempting to be as distracting and amusical as possible. Rather than exploring the relationships between the noises he employs, Hill pours them on as thickly as possible for the entire record, making music that feels fundamentally antagonistic.

Seim's album, on the other hand, is easily the most fully-realized work to bear the Hella name. Marrying his love of video game music with math rock bombast, Chirpin Hard might be the first album to take angular, rhythm-focused instrumental rock in a new direction since American Don. Anthemic synth lines soar over Seim's crispest riffs ever and arena rock drums, adding a dash of Daft Punk cheddar into what would otherwise be yet another post-Spiderland air guitar workout. Save for a couple of throwaways, each song feels carefully composed and pivots on arresting motifs. The record manages to kick serious rock and roll ass without sounding as though it wants to, making it a worthwhile contribution to a genre that has all but shriveled up within the last two years.

For any listener who has had a love-hate relationship with Hella's earlier releases, this double disc effectively filters the band members' warring sensibilities, with each disc making for a more consistent listening experience than the band has ever offered before. Though Seim's effort proves to be exponentially more interesting, Hill's half will likely find a receptive audience in noise rock newbies who haven't tasted the real stuff yet. Whichever side of the fence you lean towards, the album's single disc price tag makes it that much more attractive of an investment.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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