For Fans Of
Sometimes a band wears their musical influences on their sleeves so strongly and so openly that you could easily pick out which artists they’ve had on high rotation lately.
In the case of Hundredth and their surprising new album ‘Rare’, the band’s recent tastes and influences seem to be predominantly bands like Title Fight, Nothing, and Whirr. As well as prominent post-punk and shoegaze acts such as Slowdive, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, and any number of tracks from The Cure and The Jesus And Mary Chain.
Ergo, if you love either or all of those above bands, then you’ll feel right at home with ‘Rare‘; so much so that you’ll start hanging up pictures of your family and pets around said metaphorical home. Because as Hundredth’s 2016 two-track release – ‘Dead Weight‘ – initially hinted at and as the band’s fourth LP now confirms, this is just straight-up post-punk and shoegaze worship over the course of 11-songs.
For there are no hardcore guitar chugs nor any moshpit activating breakdowns to be found here, and frontman Chadwick Johnston has practically ditched his throaty, vehement screaming altogether. Instead, what you’ll find on the indeed solid ‘Rare‘ are: longer reverb decay and delay times, a highly spacious mix, chorus pedals being slammed, washes of hazy riffs, subtle but fitting use of feedback and distortion, lively (yet still punchy) instrumentals, low-mixed but suitably gloomy and apathetic vocal melodies with the occasional dynamic spikes, and with dreamy song timbres aplenty.
This isn’t the Hundredth many once knew. This isn’t the same band who once wrote tracks like the almighty ‘Desolate‘, the soaring ‘Unravel‘, the fast and catchy ‘Remain & Sustain‘ or the short burst of aggression that was ‘Free Mind/Open Spirit‘. And you know what? That’s more than fine with me!
After 2011’s career highlight of ‘Let Go‘, Hundredth practically plateaued with their ‘Revolt‘ and ‘Resist‘ EP’s and 2015’s full-length ‘Free‘ (still good released, mind you) in terms of what their melodically-tinged hardcore sound could achieve; with seemingly no tools left available to help penetrate the ceiling before them. But with this solid new sonic and aesthetic re-direction on album #4, they can now crack through that very ceiling and mature and expand their sound even further.
Much like how earlier in this decade Title Fight and Pianos Become The Teeth shed their respective emotional pop-punk and melancholic post-hardcore sounds, Hundredth pull off their style switcheroo very well. For ‘Rare‘ isn’t just a good album because it’s different from Hundredth’s arguably exhausted hardcore/metalcore sound; it’s good by both the standards of their past material and the genre(s) that they now reside within. Yet while ‘Rare’ is indeed a consistent listen, it’s an incredibly repetitive listen also.
See, the first two songs – the opening punch of ‘Vertigo‘ and the driving, racing nature of ‘Neurotic‘ – establish the style, pacing, and tone of this record well enough, and they’re good songs to boot. Yet from this strong start, Hundredth then fall into the trapping of writing one or two really good songs… and then just repeating those one or two really good songs for the rest for the entire bloody album! See, the four-piece hit one particular dynamic out of the gates and then remain there throughout ‘Rare‘. And hey, that’s fine, as these are all good songs, but Jesus H. Christ, the album’s samey song structure dynamics and one-note sensibility hit the geriatric ward real hard the deeper into ‘Rare‘ your ears get; ensuring the mid-to-late songs become somewhat indistinguishable from one another.
While there are indeed some great late game cuts to be found, such as ‘Shy Vein‘ (my personal favourite from the album, actually) and ‘Youth‘, very little musical variation is displayed once the opening pair wraps up. Save for the drawn out finale of ‘Departure‘, and that’s only because it runs for longer than the other 10 tracks.
Also, ‘Rare‘ does raise a few questions for a longtime fan such as myself. Questions like:
– Will the band continue this post-punk/shoegaze sound on future releases?
– Will they change genre yet again on the next record?
– Will they simply backpedal to their “roots” in a couple years time?
– Will they balance out their new and old material or lean towards one side more than the other when they play live?
Of course, those answers will only come in time, but as it stands right now, ‘Rare‘ is a solid, consistent record that makes for good background music. Unlike Paramore’s latest “effort”.
Artists are nearly always damned if they do, damned if they don’t in terms of either obsessively adhering to their established sound (out of fear or laziness) or in adapting to new musical avenues – for better or for worse. But instead of sticking to their typically heavy but ultimately safe melodic hardcore sound, Hundredth opted for a far different path with their new record. While I really do prefer the style of ‘Let Go’ over ‘Rare’, Hundredth haven’t stumbled with their sonic transition and I commend them on such a change, and in pulling it off well. Even if ‘Rare’ is repetitive as fuck.
3. White Squall
4. Hole Suffer
8. Shy Vein
‘Rare’ is out June 16th via Hopeless Records. Also, maybe it’s just me… but does this album’s artwork seem to just be a coloured and titled version of Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ cover?