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Out Hud - S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.

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Artist: Out Hud

Album: S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.

Label: Kranky

Review date: Nov. 18, 2002

The year 1941 spawned two of the greatest accomplishments in cinematic history – Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon. Both rest comfortably among the greatest films ever made and are viewed today as pioneering efforts that picked Hollywood up by its bootstraps and carried it across the threshold of modernity.

Now, 61 years later, two albums released within a month of each other have the chance to someday be experienced in a similar, if esoteric, context. Black Dice’s Beaches and Canyon is undeniably Wellesian in its anomalous prescience and ambition. In terms of ingenuity and innovation, the album warrants a skewed, but genuine comparison to Kane (to read more about Beaches and Canyons, click here).

Out Hud’s S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. plays Bogey to Black Dice’s Orson in 2002. While the mystery genre existed, even thrived, before The Maltese Falcon, John Huston’s directorial debut filtered the crime saga through a decidedly nihilistic lens and ignored Hollywood’s overt “crime doesn’t pay” tactics to eventually become the definition of film-noir. Out Hud can claim a similar feat on S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D., in that they refute the good vs. evil dichotomy of dance and noise music, not only combining the two, but blurring the boundary beyond distinction.

This is not the first time the members of Out Hud spat in the face of convention or discernible precedent. Nic Offer, Tyler Pope and Justin Vandervolgen feature prominently in the logocentrism-be-damned funk band !!!, a constantly evolving ensemble of post-punk party people originally from one of the US’s most unlikely (but on-the-grow)capitals (and capitols) of musical experimentation, Sacramento. The trio hooked up with Ex-Raouul’s Molly Schnick and Phyllis Forbes in 1998 to form Out Hud and take !!!’s poststructuralist dynamics to the next level, eliminating the vocals, turning up the drum machine and marginalizing classicism via the seductive sound of Schnick’s cello. The two bands released a split 12” on GSL to rave, and dumbfounded, reviews.

In their five year existence, Out Hud released the !!! split, a couple 7” singles, contributed a track to the Troubleman Mix-Tape project (a song called "Emperor Selassie's Morning Wood"), and moved cross-country to Brooklyn. Offer, Pope, and Vandervolgen garnered national acclaim in 2000 when !!!’s debut LP was released to the praise of many and CMJ deemed the band “Breakthrough Artist of the Year.” All the while, the quintet steadily assembled material for a full-length, although no timetable was ever set.

The !!! connection, Brooklyn relocation and drawn-out anticipation of the new album propagated considerable underground ballyhoo. The Village Voice labeled Out Hud the best new addition to the New York/Brooklyn music scene and stories of the group’s live show began to take on mythical proportions with each retelling. For a band without a single LP to their credit, the hype seemed too much for any one album to withstand.

In the end, however, the hype was not only justified: it was put to shame. S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is an immense recording, in volume and in theory. It maintains a populist appeal while simultaneously denigrating it. Noise, punk, dub, electro, acid house, hip hop, and classical merge like Voltron to create a power before only imaginable in the minds of Offer, Schnick, Pope, Forbes and Vandervolgen. S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is the sonic equivalent to Ghostbusters’ Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man – a massive conglomeration of contradiction prepared to take New York City by storm.

Out Hud’s greatest exploit on S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is the assimilation of sheer noise and hedonistic grooves. Concomitant agendas don’t as much battle as they do convene, creating a world where Merzbow’s piercing wails coexist with James Brown’s proto-funk odyssey and 23 Skidoo’s tribalistic mayhem. When James Murphy chides his music-snob audience at the end of the LCD Soundsystem single “Losing My Edge” with the refrain: “We all know what you really want,” knowingly or not, he’s talking about Out Hud.

The massiveness of S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. defies adequate comparison and is the most blatant display of Out Hud’s punk past. The music itself relays little in the ways of the Sex Pistols or Richard Hell, but the impetuous noise bombs and searing guitar of “Dad, There’s A Little Phrase Called Too Much Information” reverberate with unabashed aplomb, enthusiastically subverting the laws of dancefloor decree. Jarring in both intensity and spontaneity, Out Hud breaks rules and they break them very loudly.

The loudest voice on S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is Vandervolgen’s production, which sounds as full, if not fuller than the work on Beck’s Midnite Vultures or Radiohead’s Kid A. Drum machines, saturated guitars, and vintage keyboards pile upon one another to the breaking point, but Vandervolgen allows each component to retain its individual voice, creating a chorus of interlocking solos. Every thread remains perceptible throughout, allowing for a myriad of listening experiences.

S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.’s strongest voices are “Dad, There’s A Little Phrase Called Too Much Information” and “The L Train is a Swell Train and I Don’t Want to Hear You Indies Complain,” two tour-de-forces that have as many movements as their titles have words. “Dad” features throbbing house beats, distorted noise, incessant tribal drumming, warm electric synths, and shimmering guitar, all without losing the beat. “L Train,” meanwhile, extends past the 12-minute mark, contrasting melodic guitars with hard-ass breakbeats. The tune methodically tramples through dub and electro before eventually letting Schnick’s cello take center stage for the final three minutes. Schnick’s mix of melancholy and euphoria inexplicably quickens the pulse and breaks the heart at the same time. When Offer starts strumming an acoustic guitar in gentle rhythm over the final seconds, the effect is as mind-blowing as any high-voltage moment on S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D..

One album in, and Out Hud have already created an instant classic. Few records contemplate such grandeur and fewer still achieve it. S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. joins the ranks of Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein, Sigur Rós’ Ágætis Byrjun, Kid606’s Down With the Scene and, of course, Black Dice’s Beaches and Canyons as 21st century watersheds in modern music. How they will be perceived in 61 years is anyone’s guess, but from a 2002 viewpoint, Black Dice and Out Hud are in a league of their own.

By Otis Hart

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