For as much as I love seeing really, really loud bands, I am sadly remiss when it comes to the use of earplugs. That was not the case when I first saw the New Highway Hymnal several months back at PA's lounge. As they were playing on a bill with the Vandelles and Earthquake Party, there was no way I was going to become permanently deaf just for the pleasure of being able to talk to my friend in between songs, so in the earplugs went--like stuffing a couple of cigarette butts into a pumpkin.
Having released their debut 7" earlier this year, the New Highway Hymnal are back with a new single called "Out With The Lights" (a teaser from their forthcoming WHISPERS LP) which is available both as a free download at this Soundcloud link and also free with admission at their show at Great Scott tomorrow. As soon as I took the track for my first spin, I was surprised to hear a world of detail in the sound of the band that totally avoided my ears during their live set.
Underneath all the volume that the four-piece generates is a band that weaves a pretty heady groove into their arrangements. It's just that most of Boston's sound-systems need to catch up with them. Recorded last month at Project Sound in Haverhill with Jason Duguay, "Out With The Lights" does well capturing the droney and buzzy 'guitars-on-top' sound of the band, but it also captures a low-end sweatiness that was needed to seal the deal. I could tell it was always there, but I just couldn't hear it. With what sounds like a very minimal mic set-up, the drums fumble like eager hands in a pitch black groove, while Amelia Gormley's bass guitar confronts you in the corner with rigid assertion. Now the sermon sounds much more consciously guided to make you itch.
While at first I thought a Stooges reference might be a bit over the top, It makes much more sense hearing how the soulful counterpunch of the rhythm section gives needed gravity to the myriad sounds being generated from the guitar amplifiers. There is a raw rock & roll energy here (think SST bands, Nation of Ulysses, Pussy Galore, etc), but a hounding backbeat that a lot of those bands skipped when it wasn't fashionable (and remained unfashionable until bands like Sleater/Kinney brought it back into the mainstream). What I like best about this track is that it sounds basically the same at 3:50 as it does at 0:01 (with the addition of what sounds like an entire additional drum-kit on the opposite speaker). If you've got the groove, why let it go? A slight deviation in the chorus section almost seems like too much of an indulgence. Ride it out.
The New Highway Hymnal
Weds, July 11
Great Scott, Allston
with MMOSS, The Migs, CreaturoS
Limited edition CD singles with original artwork/packaging to the first 200 through the door.
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About the authorJonathan Donaldson is a Boston-based musician, writer, and second-generation music junkie. An Ohio native who moved to Boston in 1998, Jonathan's musical loves include R&B, psych, punk, bubblegum, country, electronic, More »
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