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The Karl Hendricks Trio - The Adult Section

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Artist: The Karl Hendricks Trio

Album: The Adult Section

Label: Comedy Minus One

Review date: Nov. 2, 2012

Mentioning that a bandís sound has matured is something of a backhanded compliment. Itís sort of a snarky insinuation that their songs are technically sound but headed straight for the PA systems of grocery stores everywhere. Itís refreshing that in the case of the Karl Hendricks Trio, their matured sound on The Adult Section signifies an improvement, instead of a watered-down devolution. True, the guitar sound isnít as relentlessly crunchy as it was on earlier albums, but thatís for the best since Hendricks is allowing his melodies and solos to take center stage. As a result, he channels 1990s alternative riffs better than he actually did in the Ď90s.

Hendricks seems to be in on the benefits of becoming a seasoned storyteller. In "Dreams, Ha," he admits, "I thought I knew what genius was / I thought it had something to do with being young." Itís a popular trope and considering that Hendricksí most prolific output was in his 20s, itís one that the Pittsburgh native might have embraced regarding his own art. Then again, he wasnít writing lyrics as interesting as these in his 20s, and heís still speaking to some of the same frustrations. On "The Whole Fucking Thing," he groans, "You can look all you want, but I need something a bit more tactile"; itís an upbeat anthem about sexual/relationship frustration in the vein of "Satisfaction," which it references on the final verse. He even seems to have come to terms with lifeís cruel jokes on the self-deprecating "Running Like a Girl," and the breakneck paced "I Donít Need a Hippie (To Tell Me How To Talk To My Cat)." "The cat never listens to me anyway," sings Hendricks.

At times he does cross the line between self-deprecating and self-pitying. "After Four Beers" is a depressing downtempo bar anthem thatís more likely to make the listener press the skip button than crack open a fourth cold one in commiseration. Additionally, it appears that while Hendricks rarely runs out of steam on guitar riffs that sear song after song, he occasionally runs out of ideas on how to express them. The openings of "Please, Donít" and "Running Like a Girl" sound nearly identical, which might not be a problem if they werenít back to back. As such, itís easy to tune out toward the end of the album. But stopping before closer "Hold On, Cool Breeze" means skipping out on Hendricksí Mark E. Smith vocal impersonation, so we donít recommend that at all.

Thereís a tonal familiarity to The Adult Section. Hendricks has been releasing albums since the early Ď90s, but these songs sound like they belonged on the college radio stationís new release shelf in between Dinosaur Jr. and Superchunk. Of course, that could be because all three have reached veteran status in indie rock touring circuit. The Adult Section absolutely refers to the smut corner of the video or bookstore in the context of the song, but it may as well refer to a more promising phase of songwriting in regards to Hendricksí career.

By Valerie Paschall

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