Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Record Hop: Record Hop

If you hadn't heard a single note of Record Hop's new material and instead just decided to take Quick or the Dallas Observer's word for it, you'd probably end up believing that the band had completely changed direction or instituted some huge shift in their sound and approach. I don't necessarily blame the Dallas music writer that needs an angle to justify throwing a band on the cover of their daily magazine or writing a big weekly feature on a local act. The mentality seems to be "Hey, this band might hit it big, and we should all be on board in case they do," and for better or worse, this attitude seems to pervade all levels of popular music journalism in the United States these days.

Sometimes the proverbial buzz translates into actual results, and a local band ends up getting featured on some taste-making website, or signing to a label, or a publishing deal, or getting on the roster of one of the big booking companies and opening for critically acclaimed acts at art galleries across the nation. Or maybe a band dupes a writer into thinking one of these things might happen. But let's hope not.

In Record Hop's case, a decision to make a record with Steve Albini resulted in the celebrated recording engineer stating on a poker message board that he thought the band was "terrific" and "carrying the rock torch." Stereogum happened to post this little tidbit in a large reposted chunk of the original Q and A, and to some speculators, this one two knockout publicity punch translated into instant success and a promise of big things to come. I know a lot of people who would take a compliment from Albini over say, a thousand people buying their record, and my intention is not to minimize or take anything away from that praise. Albini is more honest than most people, and therefore it sometimes seems like he gives scant compliments (in comparison to insults) towards musicians. But I think it puts an unfair bit of pressure on Record Hop, that they now have to "make it" due to their slight uptick in publicity. If this media driven idea of "making it" is to a band what the media driven idea of "beautiful" is to an anorexic teen, then there is the expectation that a band must have made some drastic change in order to easily fit into this constrictive conceptual mold.

Yet, here's the thing: Record Hop didn't need a big change to be great. They already were. And the best parts of their eponymous second LP are the things that have largely remained unchanged-- the immense, scraping, twin guitar rock sound leading an abusive rhythm section topped off with wonderfully slurred vocals. That is largely what is on this record, and the only times I ever feel that the band takes a step back are during the moments where this formula seems somewhat compromised. Thankfully there aren't too many of those moments. But am I supposed to interpret them as a band finally sounding as they are "supposed" to? Again, Record Hop wasn't broke, so don't fix it.

The bluesy opener "Skirtchaser," veers a little too close to blues rock territory, and it seems that any of the other tracks might have made better openers. Once again, Ashlee Cromeens' ability as a singer could save just about any lackluster backing music, and I could probably listen to her sing Jimmy Buffet or Eagles' covers without slitting my wrists. There are a handful of singers in the world I could probably say that about. The album really picks up on the second, and one of the best tracks, "Maths." The complex little working parts that make up the verse and lead up to the equally intricate chorus are really something to return to. Included lyric sheets tell us that Cromeens sings "Take this card/I'll fend off" repeatedly, and I realize that I've never wanted to know exactly what she's saying. How she says it has always been the point, hence the slurring.

It's fitting that Record Hop once went as Fugazi for Halloween, as I hear traces of the superior "Repeater"-era in the riffs of "Dognapper," "Yr War," and the aforementioned "Maths." Elsewhere, 90's rock worship almost threatens to undo the momentum by conjuring up another DC Hardcore disciple, Tom Morello, when he started ripping off Zeppelin, such as on the big pulloff-happy riffing on "Rocket Seance." Again, saved by the singing.

Record Hop pushes some of their toughest material late in the record with the brief explosion of "End Of Line," followed by the almost equally short "Clique." This is one of the most successful stretches on the album, and by the time "American Weed" rolls around, it almost seems a shame that the band didn't have more songs like these on the first half of the record, especially considering that they certainly weren't lacking these high energy moments in their past catalog.

The recording itself is as excellent as expected, and Justin Collins did a seamless job mixing all but one of the tracks. But as a self-professed big fan of the band's first record, Pareidolia, I have a certain bias in favor of it, and I think Matt Barnhart has been taking some real critical slings as to how he didn't really capture their sound on the debut. The first record sounds like Record Hop, and it features some unforgettable songs that have always caused people to ask what they're hearing when I play it around the house, which is usually followed by the exclamation of"Really?," when I explain that they're a local band from Denton. The obvious semi-ballad on the s/t record is "Slugworth," and it's good, for sure. But will it have the staying power of local classic, "Last Second?"

Hard to say, and I want to reiterate that these are unfair expectations that have been put on the band, even if it's nice to get so much attention, and I only ask questions like that in the face of how some people have framed the latest chapter of the Record Hop "story." So let people gamble and speculate on the next breakout act, but Record Hop should rest easy knowing that they were always deserving of such acclaim and hyperbole of the sort wasted on their lesser peers, back in the salad days of '04.

(3.5 out of 5)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the salad days of 04. Oh the mid-aughts nostalgia.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't even remember what was going on in 04.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't remember what was going on in 4... uh...20

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

three cheers for record hop!!

2:33 PM  
Anonymous yes said...

good job on the essay

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thoughtful review, DL.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems from your review it would've been more than 3.5 out of 5?

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops....meant to also ask what you knocked it most for...dynamics that don't work? Sequencing?

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually record hop (scott) has mentioned how much he wants them to "make it." especially if you go back to the days of buzz oven when they were playing all of those shows with fair to midland. i can clearly remember them begging people to come out to one of the first buzz oven shows because he wants to show dallas how much they want to "make it." the expectations should be high for this band and i agree that the songwriting on the first album was better.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"make it" means different things to different people.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous streisand said...

I knew scott during the buzz oven days and he never mentioned "making it". Seems we were always more worried about how many free drinks we would get at mabels.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous tarnation said...

if "making it" means writing music with my friends that ive known for quite some time while in the mean time paying rent, bills, and food for myself count me in. However I still have my day job. Sucks.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They want to be bigger than bowling for soup? Geezus.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

They will never be bigger than Bowling for Soup.

Get it? LOL

At first I was disappointed that Record Hop weren't a throwback brill building pop band, but after hearing the music I came to appreciate the rawk.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:54 is obviously just trying to push buttons.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, 10: 26, pushing buttons is such a shocker on this page. Thanks for pointing that out.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous metal ballooney said...

record hop = win win

kinda like a beer drinking contest

everyone wins!!!!

2:44 AM  
Anonymous D.E. said...

"Make it?" Oh, now your just being ridiculous. I do remember us inviting people to a show you know, with, like, flyers and shit. I did, however, hear Scott say once, "Damn, this Coors does taste pretty good with tomato juice."
- Ashley, Dinosaur Expert, D.E.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the new RH album overall. Too much Fugazi at some points which is a good and a bad thing.

Not bad at all for a local effort.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the new RH album overall. Too much Fugazi at some points which is a good and a bad thing.

Not bad at all for a local effort.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can I download it for free somewhere? I understand trying to make your money back on a recording but you did spent money for a certain sound right? That's getting your money's worth enough? no? I might be wrong about this.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ashley-it's bud. gee, steve albini? what did kurt show up or something? take it from christina and geoff: faghazy or henry 'i love you steven tyler' rollins, or gwar, or any other shitcan 'underground' act you'd ever care to mention, suck. that's pavement included, pops!!
uh, tata, tatel..

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so, where and when are those local reviews you made mention of?

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Harlin said...

I was most disappointed that none of the hip hip influenced tracks made the album. (I heard some of the rough mixes, and they were damn good.) I was also terribly dismayed by the glaring lack of indie tight pants on the album. I have seen Scott at Dan's like a hundred times, and he is always wearing regular pants. How does he expect to make it?

Another thing that upset me was their refusal to do things that are really trendy right now but will be forgotten faster than a cassette tape melts on your dashboard in the summertime in Texas. I just hate it when a band sticks to what they know and love. How dare they refuse to bend to public will? I mean, can I really be expected to waste my time illegally downloading their music if its not exactly like everything else? Besides, they are just a local act, after all.

In closing, I am done with Record Hop. I'm tired of watching them work really hard and being really nice people and playing kick ass shows and busting their asses to put out a quality product. I'm not going anywhere near them until they develop a gimmick and become assholes.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think there's any reason to defend against anonymous people. It was a good review.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous foodie said...

Hear hear, 1:08! You're smart!

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think they have "made it" with each other--does that count?

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Mikey said...

I dig Record Hop. I like hanging out and saying a few words to them over a few (or 12) beers. My only complaint is they waited way to fucking long to out out a new record. But now thats it's here I don't mind that so much. Ask me again in 2 years.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous I remember said...

Scott once told me that when they parted ways with John Mac, that they weren't all on the same page as far as what they want out of RH. I specifically remember him telling me that he was the one who pushed them to do all the buzz oven stuff. So....I'm not sure what to think

3:02 PM  
Anonymous by he i mean said...

John Mac, not offend him, THNKS

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Farmer said...

I make it with Corey all the time. Namely after a round of quail eggs.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:46 has to be Scott, how funny

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

quail eggs make yr balls swell enough to make it with other doods.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous scot p. said...

Nope, 12:46 is my friend Harlin. He's an actual person. I came here to add this:

We wanted to make it for sure. Making it = have as many people hear us as possible. We played the Curtain Club with metal bands as often as we played Mabel's with Silk Stocking. The four of us agreed to do Buzz Oven when asked because it meant 10,000 free CDs distributed to high school kids that had our music on them. A lot of that time was really fun. But the bullshit adds up. Creepy corporate radio stuff. Asshole Deep Ellum employees- from the parking lot guy on up. People who want to make you feel like they're doing you a favor by letting your band share their air.

Sadly, we were not born punk. We had to learn organically that there are other ways to do things. Seeing how the Early Lines did some things gave us hope. Birth to Burial showed us stuff that we had never thought about, schooling us in a 100 ways. The split with John had more to do with the future than any past situations. Record Hop is 100% non-artsy, grunge-raised, thirty and over latebloomers. If we had to learn shit the hard way -- for instance when Famous Radio Man asked Ashley during an interview who she had to sleep with to get into a band -- so be it. We agree that we're better off because of it. And it's frickin' hilarious to talk about when we're drunk. Thank you for the review, DL. Check's in the mail!

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why does scott wear gloves with the fingers cut off. we live in texas for chrisake.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why does scott wear gloves with the fingers cut off. we live in texas for chrisake.

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you've just been kicked out of the hateful anon club.

1. you don't know how to refresh your browser
2. your anon stabs are not even all that relevant/ funny/ etc.
"Hey, what's up with that dude's socks? who wears socks like that?"
gimmie a break.


6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so, who do we make OUR checks out to? do you take checks from invisible acts?

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

um, you guys, whats wrong with "making it?"

2:49 PM  

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