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Hot Rod Circuit
Sorry About Tomorrow
Vagrant Records

After two full-length records for Triple Crown, Hot Rod Circuit has found a home with emo starmakers Vagrant Records. Sorry About Tomorrow is HRC’s 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 you’ll 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 Jackson’s maturing voice and gritty rhythm guitar work, Casey Prestwood’s baroque guitar lines, Jay Russell’s solid, simple bass lines and vocal harmonies, and Mike Poorman’s crisp, athletic drumming. On Sorry About Tomorrow, Hot Rod Circuit sound like a band that has finally found its footing. Prestwood’s busy guitar melodies form a pleasing counterpoint to Jackson and Russell’s simple vocal melodies, while Poorman’s 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. Jackson’s vocals, particularly on the choruses, are strong-yet-friendly, and owe as much to Joe Jackson as to Jake Burns. Prestwood’s guitar acrobatics are toned down a bit, compared to the rest of the record, aside from a —gasp! — smokin’ 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 what’s that chorus all about? Is this another love song about Conor Oberst?

But if you’ve seen Hot Rod Circuit live recently, the standout track will probably be "The Pharmacist". This song has become a favorite of HRC’s 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/I’m getting on with my life. There’s also a winning skinny-tie vibe to "The Pharmacist" that will hook in everyone who has become addicted to those Just Can’t Get Enough 80s compilations.

The closing track, the ranging and ambitious "The Night They Blew Up The Moon", originally appeared with Gorman Bechard’s 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. There’s the New Wave nostalgia, the intuitive-but-effective harmonies, the angular guitar lines, the hummable melodies, and the angst. Can’t forget the angst. And it’s 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), I’d make it Sorry About Tomorrow.

-Eryc Eyl

Track Listing:

  1. The Pharmacist
  2. At Nature's Mercy
  3. Radiation Suit
  4. Safely
  5. Now Or Never
  6. Cool For One Night
  7. Knees
  8. Let's Go Home
  9. Consumed By Laziness
  10. Get What You Get
  11. The Night They Blew Up The Moon

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