Out Hud: S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.
Out Hud are several young New York peeps (some of whom are also in unpronounceable neo-funk band !!!) who have created a reasonably enjoyable album that fuses aspects of indie rock with elements of electronic dance music. This combination of the brain-based composition of serious music and the ass-based groove of dance music is a convenient duality, because it makes S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. essentially immune to criticism. If you say that the album, as a piece of art, is not really saying anything very interesting or doing anything particularly new or exciting, someone will reply, Oh, but its a dance album, its not supposed to say anything, its just fun! Do you hate fun? But if you say that as a dance album, its not especially great to dance to, that the beats, while interesting at first, get old fast, and that the bands attention span is too short to develop a serious groove, someone else will claim, Well, you know, its a lot more than a dance album. You just must not understand what theyre doing.
On the surface, every Out Hud song sounds great. The production is excellent, with sub-aquatic bass and odd electronic flourishes reminiscent of the last Tortoise album, Standards. I hear a combination of live drums and programmed drum machines. The transitions between them are so fluid and the recording so masterful that its difficult to register the changes. Out Hud has a particularly effective trick of coasting along on a light melodic groove and then tossing in a sudden metallic explosion to jar you out of your apathy. They layer moaning cello and delayed guitar over thumping percussion, but this is part of the problem, because its like drawing a detailed picture in chalk, and then taking your hand and smearing the whole thing sideways. The vague haze created by the string instruments seems contrary to the precise clatter of the drums, de-emphasizing the beat and choking the groove. The guitar and cello seem to be there to add melodicism to the proceedings, but nothing they play is particularly catchy or memorable, so you end up with a NutraSweet effect (it sweetens up the flavor but adds no substance).
I dont know; this is actually a pretty ok album. I guess part of me just doesnt understand the attention that Out Hud is getting for what is essentially a pleasant listening experience and not a lot more. Being a fairly cynical dude, I cant help but imagine that most of this praise is from over-analytical indie kids who want to like dance music but are afraid that Daft Punks joyous vocoders might turn them gay, so they buy the new Out Hud album because its on Kranky and the guitar player sounds like the Edge back when U2 was still passionate about their beliefs (which kind of bugs me, because of course Out Hud claims their inspirations are dry, brittle funk of early 80s UK post-punk, Sherwood's beat-mashing across the On-U Sound catalog and even acid house and hip hop, [from the press kit] but that fucker sounds exactly like the Edge). Im sure that isnt fair to Out Hud they cant pick their fans, I assume they didnt write their press kit, and Im probably over-thinking this whole thing, but when youre listening to an album that thuds along in 4/4 time at the same tempo for the better part of an hour, youve got to contemplate something. Or maybe I just hate fun.
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