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The Hunches - Exit Dreams

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Artist: The Hunches

Album: Exit Dreams

Label: In the Red

Review date: Jan. 21, 2009

Garage rock is a big hole, a virtual landfill of guitars, amps and 4-tracks. Itís never developed the nerdy taxonomy of other scenes that attract collectors, gear fetishists or artists working at the margins. Wikipedians have cataloged some 200 genres of electronic music, with metal and prog showing slight more quantitative restraint, but more formal structure. By comparison, thousands have leap into the garage void, surrendering distinction upon entry.

But if garage rock seems bound to the past, that doesnít necessarily mean itís averse to the present. Two decades ago, the White Stripesí Zeppelinsims wouldnít have sounded right. Synthesizers would have been grounds for disqualification. But theyíre a regular part of the racket now: "Communication Breakdown" and Hardcore Devo feel as much like founding documents as Big Hits and Fazed Cookies.

I bring this up, because most garage records hew close to a specific sound. For the Hunchesí Exit Dreams, itís the sweet-and-salty spot between the Velvet Undergroundís second and third album. It alternates between squalling blasts and glistening, quiet moments. When pushing the VU meters hard, itís grounded by mallet-thumped percussion and tambourine, just like Mo Tucker used to do. When the band pulls back, clean chords cycle over and over, and even the monotone of frontman Hart Gledhill begins to elevate. In its pretty/ugly core, this record fits alongside the Jesus and Mary Chain and Brian Jonestown Massacre.

But the Hunches havenít always sounded that way, which is why itís just as well not to cook up subgenres. The Hunches started out doing soot-cover quickies. Dreams stands at the opposite end, as close to artiness as you can get while still operating on the principal of who cares? It rocks. The production isnít hi-fi, but itís solid. Words get lost in the swells of white noise, but the ones that make it through are more than wham-bam. ("How long have you been an actor, sir? I have been one now for 26 years. I quit today.") The strongest tracks deploy noise with precision. On "Carnival Debris," it gushes on and off like a spigot at the end of each measure. The walk down the midway ends with a "big red kiss."

Big red kisses suit the Hunches surprisingly well. This comes from a band so pissed off about crossover success that they made a 7Ē insulting disco-punk bands. But itís the dreamy, wall-of-sound songs that stand out, enough to sweep the slammers aside. The peak is the gorgeous "Unravelled," five minutes of meandering jangle, dressed up in tea-kettle feedback. Itís got enough ideas to extend at least another five, just like VUís "The Murder Mystery." That might have made it rock a little bit less, but who cares?

By Ben Donnelly

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