Well, between you and me, I have come to feel, in the three years since I first heard their debut, Record in a Bag, that Hollerado is one of the best things going. That's just a an unqualified fact. They rock harder than most contemporary rock acts and seem to have a lot more fun doing it. They are are as smart about their music as any art group to hit the scene, writing lyrics that are not only insanely catchy and memorable, but thought-provoking and original. The lyrics on this record take you from a scrap picker in Fresno to the Pinta Island home of the late Lonesome George, from the occupation of The Netherlands in World War II to the deepest chambers of the human heart, and it begins and ends, in a sense, in deep space. Not only do they have ideas about promotion and packaging (hand painting the entire pressing run so that each case is unique) they have a lot of ideas about their music, and they all work.
The music takes the form of sweet, raggedy garage power pop, putting Hollerado in the tradition of Weezer, Sloan, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Big Star. They sound like guys who just love music so much and want it to always be good: "Desire 126" sets a peppy, Cars-like riff against a lyric "Desire / Is just a chemical / It goes and it goes and it goes... / Desire, sometimes it's good enough..." acknowledging, dismissing or even celebrating the sad contradiction of that statement. Likewise, "Thanks for the Venom," declares "You were my friend, but you are a rattlesnake / Thanks for the venom!" The whole album seems to be gloriously built out of the contradictions inside us. "Too Much to Handle" is a great piece of hyperkinetic danceable rock that really shows off their skills in coming up with, then pulling off, musical tricks no other band would even dare attempt.
The band has also always shown a flair for the dramatic. The spacey first track, "Wonder, Velocity, Charlie and Me" blends into "Don't Think" to create a mini epic that includes phrases like "Levitation is made out of jet fuel and patience" and "I remember the time we went to the museum, slow, I said dinosaurs look said, you said just some thinking." The lyrics in the liner notes, unlineated, seem like the inspired ravings of a lunatic. 90% of the verbiage on here would never appear on another band's album. Then there's "Lonesome George," the tribute to the late Galapagos tortoise, in the way this band often writes, doesn't specifically refer to its subject but opens it up to make a grander statement, with its somber tone and great lyric: "You got no way to break my heart ... walk over me."
Everything in Holleradoland is a potential song. A while ago they posted the story behind "So It Goes" on their Facebook page, which is about uncommon kindness shown by a German soldier to one of the bandmember's grandfathers. It would be an exceptionally dynamic song even without that dimension. They also really flex their muscles on "Fresno Chunk," a spellbinding darkened funk rocker with bizarre, colourful lyrics, portraits of desperate people making due with what they can scrape together by picking through junk piles.
But probably the finest moment of the disc comes in the form of "I Want My Medicine," one of the finest odes to the devotion to music I have ever heard. In another band's hands, it simply would not have worked, but they sell it and imbue it with heart and pathos and grandiosity that is uncommon - seemingly impossible - from a guitar group in 2013, but here we are. You would hardly even know what the song was really about if you weren't following along, but when you start catching stray details in the lyrics, you put it together, and it becomes the most gorgeous, tragic thing. That phrase: "I want my medicine" is one of the heaviest, most honest things I have ever heard in my time reviewing for this site, because it's just such a concrete statement that emphasizes the gravity of the situation. I do not often get choked up when I listen to music, but I will freely admit when something gets to me and buddy, that hit hard. It's all in the execution. And then, before you collapse from the strain, the song comes to its end, and you get a little buffer in the form of the rollicking "Pure Emotion." Love it.
The album wraps up with "Pick Me Up," which is a wild power pop gem that sums up everything that is great about this band, not only their great music, but their worldview: We are young and in love / We are twirling through space / On the luckiest rock, in the loneliest place.
The sound of the album is polished, with clean bouncy hooks and grand production, but it still carries a "live off the floor" quality, a willingness to be imperfect or weird. It's exemplified by the often angular guitars and Menno Versteeg's unpolished rocker-next-door vocals. Some of the lead vox are handled by Nixon Boyd, whose deliveries are marked by reckless abandon compared to Versteeg's earnestness.
I love this band. They give so much value for your record-buying dollar. They convey, through their music, a curiosity and wonder at the universe and the people and things that fill it, the stories that every person, every animal, every item carries inside it, and the belief that people are good and things can get better, without seeming blindly optimistic about it.
More than that, they care about their music. They seem to put a lot of work and a lot of themselves into every lyric, every riff, every drumbeat. It resembles a lot of things but stands out as its own.
Hollerado has made two albums that belong up there with any two albums from any band ever. I really think that. Both Record in a Bag and White Paint bring such life and spirit to a listening experience that their quality simply cannot be denied. When I listen to music, all I want is to be taken out of my life, the world I think I know, for forty minutes or so, and shown something amazing. Hollerado does that with joy.
Buy This Album Now: iTunes Canada // iTunes Canada (Deluxe) // Amazon.ca // Hollerado.com Store