'The only band we like is Nirvana.
The only album we like is Nevermind.
The only song we like is Smells Like Teen-Spirit.'*
So say self proclaimed Thrash-Punk band Harlem, who are apparently, 'covered in bbq sauce'. Currently residing in their adoptive home in the 'Live music capital of the world', that is Austin, Texas, Harlem are originally from Tucson. Having been on a rather lengthy journey that has taken in LA, Tennessee, San Francisco and Nashville, where they are 'barred everywhere', Harlem have eventually found appreciation in The Lone Star State.
Michael Coomer and Curtis O'Mara have been playing together since they were fourteen. Both men share the egotistical duties of front man and band conduit equally, swapping guitar, vocals and drums as and when required. Helping to rationalise any potentially problematic situations in the desire to hog the limelight is the newest recruit, and psychology major, Jose Boyer on bass.
'Hippies' is the second album from Harlem and is a follow up to their self released debut, 'Free Drugs'. Having settled and signed (to Matador) the boys have tirelessly and painstakingly sweated over their new release, which they started recording back in July 2009. Harlem have previously drawn comparisons to The Kinks, The Shins, The Pixies and also their zip code neighbours White Denim. Clearly they are not just a Thrash-Punk band.
The album is full of a raw frenetic energy, the petulance of youth and a cocksure delirium derived from a creative adrenaline. Their combination of fast and lose, full throttle frenzy with pop strewn tunes is hard to ignore. Each of the sixteen short cuts is buzzing with a nervous and excitable tension.
First up is 'Someday Soon' a tune packed with jaunty guitar work and taut, jostling drums. Harlem fuse The Libertines with 'Fire In Cairo' era Cure to produce an anthemic belter. 'Friendly Ghost' keeps up the pace, whilst 'Spray Paint' showcases Jose's dirty bass lines gloriously alongside the immediacy of the driven and jagged guitar work. 'Be Your Baby' (Along with 'Tila & I' later on) then manages to capture the infectious, 'Nuggets' style, throwback sensibility of the band perfectly.
By the time you get to track #6, 'Gay Human Bones' you're either delusional or in for the rest of the riotous ride. The track starts as a near Nirvana pastiche of 'Lithium' but quickly switches to garage band gold. Harlem have managed to pull on all manner of influences and still make it their own in a wondrously colourful, pyrotechnical performance. Further on, 'Cloud Pleaser' probably best explains their comparisons to The Kinks. With its more mellow and harmonious arrangement the vocal sits above the jangle of the guitar.
Up next is 'Faces' a track already receiving air play on BBC Radio 6, courtesy of Lauren Laverne who is obviously smitten as she introduced them as 'The really rather brilliant Harlem'. Exploding at you with a Punk attitude and a Ska undercurrent, Faces, ties together the enthusiasm and energy of a live performance, not concerned with cleaning up the somewhat raucous rough n' ready feel.
'Three Legged Dog' and 'Prairie My Heart' slow proceedings down a little to let a psychedelic hue wash over them. The nitrous is switched back on for the incendiary 'Scare You' and the filthy feedback and fuzz of 'Stripper Sunset'. Closing off nicely are the toe tapping Rock-A-Billy ditty, 'Pissed', and the jagged lament of 'Poolside'.
Hippies is a fantastic collections of perfectly pitched power pop with a punk and new wave lineage. It's brimming with electrifying energy and passion. Don't take it too seriously, revel in its unrelenting enthusiasm, stick it on repeat and play it load!
*They also like Lil Wayne and 'Live Through This' by Hole!, little fibbers.....