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It Hugs Back - Recommended Record

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 10 / 4 / 2013

It Hugs Back - Recommended Record
Label: It Hugs Back
Format: CD


Exuberant and restlessly energetic third album from Maidstone indie rockers, It Hugs Back

Having endured more than two years in limbo after the collapse of their label Too Pure (and a temporary, unhappy stint with 4AD), It Hugs Back have made up for lost time with the release of a third album less than twelve months after their second. Where that second album, ‘Laughing Party’ sprawled over more than an hour of music, made up of multiple loops, snippets and extended jam sessions, ‘Recommended Record’ clocks in at a neat 35 minutes, having been recorded in a single month last year. While the experimental urges that made ‘Laughing Party’ so enjoyable have not been ditched, ‘Recommended Record’ feels sharper – each track more recognizably crafted as a song. Though there is no disguising that the It Hugs Back love American underground music, a better reference point would be the vintage Creation Records bands of the early 1990s – especially the Boo Radleys – with an ‘anything goes’ approach merging as many styles and ideas as they can think of, with pop melodies poking out from a blanket of electric guitar. They appear to have made a conscious effort to make each track stand out on its own terms. As a result, ‘Recommended Record’ is a huge step forward – where ‘Laughing Party’ was always enjoyable, this follow-up is out of the very top drawer. It kicks off with ‘Sa Sa Sa Sails’, a breezy pop tune, drenched in effects pedals and treated synths. The exuberant mood continues with ‘Go Magic!’, with a refrain of “let’s go” repeated throughout the song, as guitars are layered over one another. Next up is ‘Sometimes’, which comes across like ‘Low’-era David Bowie covering a My Bloody Valentine tune. ‘Piano Drone’ does exactly what it says on the tin, with an incessant fuzzy bass sound rumbling underneath a series of slow piano chord patterns, under which are a constantly shifting parades of snippets of guitar and sound effects. One of the strongest tracks here, it has been enjoying airtime on BBC 6 Music in recent weeks. In sharp contrast, ‘Big Sighes’ is a heavy rock monster, a short-sharp burst of Stooges-influenced rock ‘n’ roll, built around an untamed beast of a guitar riff that brings to mind the Icarus Line. The second half of the album features a run of the album’s three strongest songs - ‘Teenage Hands’ is the closest track here to what It Have Bugs have done in the past, with layered guitars, hushed vocals and call-and-response harmonies. ‘Lower’ is perhaps the album’s strongest song – especially reminiscent of The Boo Radleys’ with a stop-start melody, layered guitars, three-part harmonies, almost masking an anthemic Merseybeat chorus. ‘Waiting Room’ starts as a gentle folky-ballad, before a tight drumbeat leads into the album’s most hummable riff, around a series of clipped guitar lines that might remind you of the Sea and Cake. ‘Skateboard Rhythm’, the album’s longest song, begins with thirty seconds of radio-crackle and ambient noise, before the vocals kick in. Around a shuffling folk song, the band merges 70’s-style country-rock with krautrock. You can’t help but be reminded of Wilco’s ‘A Ghost Is Born’, especially as the band lose themselves in a freeform jam as the song reaches its conclusion. Finally, ‘Recommended Records’ – a busy rock ‘n’ roll song that makes surprisingly effective use of tinny synth-strings - wraps the album up. ‘Recommended Record’ is an album that will take several listens to make its point. Bristling with restless energy, it’s clear It Hugs Back prize the constructing interesting soundscapes far above conventional songwriting. If you . however. listen closely, you’ll hear plenty of evidence of the effortless pop melodies that made the band’s early singles like ‘Work Day’ so enjoyable. An album that lives up to its title.

Track Listing:-
1 Sa Sa Sa Sails
2 Go Magic!
3 Sometimes
4 Piano Drone
5 Big Sighs
6 Teenage Hands
7 Lower
8 Waiting Room
9 Skateboard Rhythm
10 Recommended Records

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Interview (2012)
It Hugs Back - Interview
John Clarkson speaks to Matthew Simms, the front man with Maidstone-based indie rock band It Hugs Back, about his dual career as a touring guitarist with Wire and ‘Laughing Party’, his band’s recently released second album
Interview (2012)

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