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Hard Place
Hard Place
Antenna Records
www.hardplacemusic.com


Hard Place evokes a minimalistic synth-80's feel, full of good hooks and harmonies, but basic in its form and function. The songwriting is full of wit and insight, yet the band itself holds the songs back; this three-piece sounds like a three-piece, it is notably hollow of sound and empty. Maybe this could be overcome by having a different producer, but at a minimum the band needs to know the void is there and try to fill the sound themselves. The best moments on the album are when there are strong power chords from the guitar as in "Make the Cut", or there is a well-defined keyboard line like in "Demographic", both of which envelope the songs they are contained within.

Blessedly, all three members of the band sing, which is a welcome addition to the overall feel of the album, and enhances each song in turn. The guitar has some nice moments, but it is the biggest factor in filling the space. In "Sexy" the keyboards are merely backing, and the single note guitar lines just don't cut it; and as a consequence the song feels like a vacuum. The keyboards are sparingly used throughout, and lose a little in the final production, but like the guitar, the keyboards have some nice moments of clarity. The drums are barely worth mentioning, not because they are bad, but because they seem uninspired and basic. This drummer needs to break out of his mold and define his own sound rather than sticking to the humdrum textbook example of supporting drums.

The vocals/songwriting are the real jewel on this record, with every track producing quality singable/interesting lines and corresponding harmonies. If the band would step the other instruments up to this level of commitment, they could be unstoppable. Despite my criticism this album is good, especially if you like that bare song style reminiscent of The White Stripes. Although this band sounds closer to Devo, there are a lot of good pop upbeat grooves. I just want the band to go to the next level.

-bishop

Track Listing:

1. Demographic
2. By Yourself
3. Denim Boys
4. Last Dance
5. Man From Detroit
6. Make the Cut
7. Little Joy
8. Sexy


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Mike Doughty



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