| After two full-length records
for Triple Crown, Hot Rod Circuit has found
a home with emo starmakers Vagrant Records. Sorry About Tomorrow
is HRCís debut full-length for Vagrant, but they sound very
much at home. The new record showcases the strongest songwriting
and musicianship this band has demonstrated yet.
The sound of the record is the first thing youíll notice.
Prolific producer Brian McTernan (The
Movielife, Strike Anywhere, Cave-In,
Low End Theory, and on and on and on)
brings out the best in Andy Jacksonís maturing
voice and gritty rhythm guitar work, Casey Prestwoodís
baroque guitar lines, Jay Russellís solid, simple
bass lines and vocal harmonies, and Mike Poormanís
crisp, athletic drumming. On Sorry About Tomorrow,
Hot Rod Circuit sound like a band that has finally found its
footing. Prestwoodís busy guitar melodies form a pleasing
counterpoint to Jackson and Russellís simple vocal melodies,
while Poormanís drums provide just enough boom-bip-snap to
drive the compositions forward without falling into boring,
double-time pop-punk cliché.
"Radiation Suit" is the first single off the record,
and with good reason. A driving sing-a-long, with just enough
80s-style rhythm guitar on the verses, the song embodies what
HRC is doing these days in a delightfully accessible way.
Jacksonís vocals, particularly on the choruses, are strong-yet-friendly,
and owe as much to Joe Jackson as to Jake Burns.
Prestwoodís guitar acrobatics are toned down a bit, compared
to the rest of the record, aside from a ógasp! ó smokiní guitar
solo. The song perfectly showcases the talent-drenched Hot
Rod Circuit product that Vagrant is sure to turn into gold.
Another strong track worthy of special notice is the sappy-but-delightfully
poppy "Consumed By Laziness". The HRC formula of
palm-muted rhythm guitar on the verses and open strumming
on the choruses makes the listener apathetic and passive just
in time to be bludgeoned by the bridge, the most aggressive
moment on the record. And whatís that chorus all about? Is
this another love song about Conor Oberst?
But if youíve seen Hot Rod Circuit live recently, the standout
track will probably be "The Pharmacist". This song
has become a favorite of HRCís live shows for its straightforward
rock-n-roll feel, its perfect vocal harmonies, and its pithy,
singable chorus: You let me down for the last time /Truth
prevails and its nothing you can hide/So I wash my hands of
you/Iím getting on with my life. Thereís also a winning
skinny-tie vibe to "The Pharmacist" that will hook
in everyone who has become addicted to those Just Canít
Get Enough 80s compilations.
The closing track, the ranging and ambitious "The Night
They Blew Up The Moon", originally appeared with Gorman
Bechardís Web-based novel, The Hazmat Diary.
The song packs a lot of action into its two minutes and fifty
seconds. It begins its life as a slow, soft ballad with just
one verse. The ballad is pretty and compelling, lulling the
listener into complacency (notice a pattern here) before it
suddenly gives way to a whole different song: a heavy, rocking
tune in the classic HRC vein that closes out the last thirty
seconds or so of the track.
Overall, one could make the case that Sorry About Tomorrow
is the definitive record to summarize the current pop-punk/emo
scene. Thereís the New Wave nostalgia, the intuitive-but-effective
harmonies, the angular guitar lines, the hummable melodies,
and the angst. Canít forget the angst. And itís all wrapped
up with masterful songwriting and impeccable musicianship.
In other words, if I were going to buy one "typical"
Vagrant record this year (leaving Paul Westerberg
out of it), Iíd make it Sorry About Tomorrow.
- The Pharmacist
- At Nature's Mercy
- Radiation Suit
- Now Or Never
- Cool For One Night
- Let's Go Home
- Consumed By Laziness
- Get What You Get
- The Night They Blew Up The Moon
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