MacDara reviews Spacemad, the debut album from :Hounds: which is due for release on 1st January.
My first and only encounter with :Hounds: was some time last year in a support slot downstairs at the Lower Deck (RIP), and I remember at the time being struck by their bookish manner (I even recall a houndstooth coat if I’m not mistaken) as well as their aural resemblance to certain under-appreciated DC post-hardcore bands – Lungfish in part, yes, but mostly the louder bits of Hoover. Which is no bad thing, as who else sounds like Hoover?
Not being one who goes out a lot, :Hounds: slipped off my radar after that gig, but now here they are 18 months later with their self-released debut album, putting together a bunch of songs they’ve had in the bag for a while. Spacemad still exhibits those Dischord-ian tendencies heard before, but really it’s a melange of influences from all over the shop. According to the band themselves, they “take metal and stoner influences but burn away every affectation, everything unnecessary“. They must have burnt the whole thing to the ground, as I can’t say I hear much of a trace of either style throughout this half-hour set, not more than the other, stronger influences I can detect at any rate. Ultimately, though, such quibbles are beside the point, as however they describe themselves I’m going to take the record as I hear it, and thankfully what I’m hearing here is good. Not great, but good.
Album opener ‘Longboat’ builds up the tension, a single-chord and snare staccato growing in volume under a repeating vocal mantra (think ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’) before crashing into a room of noise that peels way to a Helms Alee vibe, complete with anthemic multi-tracked voices soaring above the riffage. ‘No Brakes’ is another sudden shift, coming at first like Lungfish playing a sea shanty but remembering to rock out in the chorus parts while maintaining that solid repetition, and making room for a blistering psychedelic solo at the end that’d make even Kim Thayil envious.
‘Night of No’ brings a proper metallic chug into the mix – the first real semblance of ‘metal’ as such – but tempers that by suddenly dropping into Slint-like meandering eddies of calm. It’s a nice variation on the loud-quiet-loud template, though the clipped vocal mannerisms are a bit jarring. Staying on the post-rock theme, ‘Twinkie’ sports a tumbling rhythm, blocky riffing and distorted vocals reflecting shades of early Shipping News or even Rodan.
Next up comes a brief mid-way interlude with the short instrumental ramble of ‘Try Killer Balls’ bleeding into the My Bloody Valentine-isms of ‘Q Where are you? A Steak No 3’. Something strange is happening now, and it’s not necessarily to the album’s credit. Case in point is ‘Nightbaker’, a proper jam from the same mould as Hoover, with a lovely rattling baseline to boot, but it’s all working at odds with the surreal horror-comedy lyric. ‘Something In Your Face’ is a rethreading of ‘No Breaks’ where the creepy verbiage works better, but then it’s followed by another random instrumental break with the unfortunate title ‘I Want To Fuck My Brain Into Yours’. Quite.
Much better is ‘All Hail’, an older track that recycles a couple of limber Faraquet guitar lines. And the drifting sounds of extended instrumental ‘Spacedocking’ belie its strength as a solid album closer. Overall, then, Spacemad makes a fist of demonstrating that :Hounds: are lads with ideas, even if they’re not all their own. But that weirdness that takes over as the track list progresses isn’t the virtue they might think it is. I can’t help imploring them to cut out the messing and focus!