Thursday, 26 September 2013

Hunters - Hunters


The pulsating cover in front of you is the image of Hunters' past, present, and future. Your eyes are fixated on blurred lines, the endless sonic psychedelic twirl that puts New York's most exciting punk rock quartet at the centre of your mind. The cover of Hunters' self-titled debut album is a gentle reminder that black and white outweigh the colour and glamour. An ironic contrast to Hunters' lead members, vocalist Izzy Almeida, and guitarist / vocalist Derek Watson, who are in fact the two must colourful and vibrant members of Brooklyn's punk scene. Their music on the other hand, tells a completely different story - as Neil Young famously said: "Hey hey, my my, rock and roll can never die. There's more to the picture, than meets the eye. Hey hey, my my." Hunters' album cover represents a core fundamental feature; there's definitely more to the picture than what meets the eye. The infinite wisdom of a debut album can be gruelling; it can make or break you. Hunters are telling the listener right from the first gritty bass riff of the opening track "Narcissist" that: "Rock and roll is here to stay."

Hunters graced our ears back in 2011 with their debut EP Hands On Fire. It was produced by Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and Yeah Yeah Yeah's guitarist Nick Zinner. Two strong, influences on the Hunters sound, with the Smashing Pumpkins being one of the bands Hunters have based themselves on. Iha's influence can be heard on tracks like "She's So". A power driving pre-release single that combines a varied stricture through Watson's vocals, and Almeida's vocals. This companionship between the vocalists sheds a new light on Hunters' overall presence on the recording. It's a tennis match of vocals fought out between these two individual up and comers, but without each other would render the band Hunters futile. These structures make for great songs, like with "She's So". It has a catchy light guitar riff running through the verses, and then an exceptional four chord power riff on the chorus'. It comes together on with their magnificent middle eight segment. Almeida sings: "There's something about her, there's something about her, she's so," with a path of distortion destruction left on the bridge. We hear these standard structures throughout punk music, but it's never quite as imaginary or gripping as listening to Hunters. "Street Trash" has the back and forth tennis vocals clouded by a vigorous guitar riff. The chorus completely throws the listener off guard as Almeida sings: "I know what you want, I don't know", a typical, small but neat punk rock refrain. 

"Seizure" was released as another single; it's not one of the key tracks or even a standout track on Hunters. The energising Watson solo is the most remarkable feature of this track, but the overall sound and progression is too similar to others. "Seizure" is the first nod to repetition in Hunters' sound. It's not all the same, but you start to ask questions of quality when the same effects and progressions are being utilised. "It's True" shakes things up with a faster, less sinister recording that branches out to the hardcore punk 80s. It's followed by the mid-album starlet "Nosebleed". It starts off with a single note riff reminiscent of the pre-chorus to "She's So", but the recording takes a change for the good. First there’s the caressing chorus with firm Almeida vocals, using reverb to give her voice that extra layer of dreariness. At 2:30, the track becomes something completely new, unchartered territory on Hunters. It's a luminous riff and structure that brings to mind the happy days of The Smashing Pumpkins, and of course Sonic Youth. The build-up picks up noise through distortion and suddenly reverts to the three chord chorus, pounding down on the listener right till the final note at the late five minute mark.  

Instead of plainly breaking through glass from tracks one to 10, Hunters have sharpened their sound since their debut EP. They've found a way of formulating art punk in to their sound without it sounding too gimmicky or novelty-esque. "Blackheart" changes up the structure with an instant killer guitar riff, and the following two chord verse and dominating bass. It's one of Hunters' best tracks to date and when it all comes together the effects are profound. Imagine the post-punk revival bands putting in something louder, simpler and brasher, well this is it. The lengthy instrumental segment leads in to the powerful punk drones of the chorus, and "Blackheart" finally ends itself on a high with a cool down vocal effort, almost whispered by Almeida.   

Hunters are keeping punk rock relevant in the modern age. It's not all about releasing a trilogy of mediocre pop punk albums; it's the core values of a punk band with all the sound, image, and lyricism brought together as one unitary aspect of music. It's all fair and well having a three chord progression, but without the passion, the punk, the music will not matter. Hunters utilise these aspects on their debut album, keeping an adventurous outlook to their sound. It's not too deafening, or too easy on the ear. Back album tracks like "Thin Twin" and "Undone" keep the tempo moving and Hunters relish in keeping listeners tuning in - especially with the closer "Wonder", which is one of the defining tracks.  

Hunters' debut album is 33 minutes of initially raw recordings, finely produced and stripped of nonsense. It's held together by its decisive structures with "She's So", "Narcissist", and "Nosebleed". They've certainly improved their sound since their debut EP in 2011, keeping their characteristics, but adding textures not heard before. It's louder, more inventive, and it fits in with the ancient punk recordings and the modern sounds of punk rock which are undoubtedly making a comeback to the New York scene.  

Hunters is an impressive debut album; it takes both lyrics and music in to account. The market for punk rock is still vibrant, with metal and independent rock fans finding a middle ground. Hunters never looked like flunking their debut album, and it comes down to their unique qualities as musicians and individuals. Both Almeida and Watson throw words at each other, carrying the instrumental for over half an hour. It's the perfect length for a punk related debut album, and features the most concise Hunters material to date. Hunters is a stepping stone for the New Yorkers, they've taken a leap of faith releasing their debut album, and it's worth it. Mom + Pop have signed a cracking quartet and will surely want to keep hold of Hunters for quite some time. A great start to what will doubtlessly be a successful career.
~Eddie

8.9

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