Got up at 6.00, quick shower, picked up a snack at the gas station, to the store, loaded 12 boxes of records, met a friend, freeway to Essen, headed for another record fair, beautiful sunrise, sounds from the car radio, oh wait, it’s not the radio but the The Hundred In The Hands promo.
Smooth notes dripping out the speakers – elegant electronic sounds and a comfortable, unobtrusive female voice. Unsuspicious even? Well, somehow. But it’s got class in the way they dress their music.
A lot of what The Hundred In The Hands do is white trash disco with straight 4/4. Then there are the slower, a tiny bit darker tunes with Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen and Human League lurking round the corner. The squeaky clean pop always remains though.
Their dub-influence becomes visible already during the opening track “Young aren’t young” (among my faves tracks on the record btw) which is discoid indie synth-pop with lots of delayed sounds in it. But don’t expect that element to become more present as with most dance music, “dub” remains a pretty abstract thing on this album. The Hundred In The Hands use quite a lot of reverb and delay on almost all their tracks. That’s tasty often but it sometimes doesn’t safe the songs from having obvious gaps in the arrangement.
In mentioned tune “Young aren’t young” the line “all around the world” as refrain is a worn out pop phrase that just takes away what the lyrics seem to be about – a problem that later reappears on another song of the album.
“Lovesick (Once Again)” caught my attention because of the homerecorded basis for the tune – reminds me of an old drum-machines I once owned; could be the Yamaha RX8. Love the rough hi-hats there. That one’s also on the debit side of things.
“Killing it” sounds like the sort of minimalism that just lacks something – as if there was no time or will or necessary inspiration left to fill the instrumental gaps.
“Pigeons” may probably come closest to being a hit – though it doesn’t work well enough for me. Listing days lyricwise just isn’t my cup of tea; “saturday comes, sunday comes” is not a cool refrain.
“This day is made” and “Dead ending” as well as the closing tune “The beach” sound boring and not very inspired.
Just when I thought it’s maybe all too tame, there’s the track “Gold Blood” coming along with distorted guitarsound. Though I gotta say I’m not sure if it suits the duo too well. Also a weird harmony change in that song makes me wonder where it’s finally heading.
“Last City” is probably the fastest tune – again with more guitar. It moves forwards but songwriting-wise it also doesn’t stand out.
Essen record fair there and back – listened to the whole album three times on the autobahn. With an interception of a few hours of being surrounded by old beardy nerds who hardly seem to shover in the morning but know all about Zappa and a few hip hop youngsters, a few mainstream part-time music buyers plus some guys and girls outside the box; all talking about music and diggin’ vinyl.
It’s very common for bands nowadays to mention their influences before anyone even asks. The Hundred In The Hands make no exception and talk of “listening to Moroder/Molton style disco; French House & minimal techno; Post-Punk favorites like Young Marble Giants, Wire, The Cure & New Order; Black Star, Dilla, De La Soul vintage hip-hop; 60’s mod, garage & girl groups and loads of Studio 1/Trojan era ska & dub” on their myspace.
It wouldn’t hurt if, as the mentioned post-punk reminiscences state, the whole thing would be a little wilder here and there. I mean the music still works; the almost housy beats and tempo on a lot of tracks keep the thing goin’ but while the old postpunk bands of the late 70s and early 80s sounded bored and a bit depressive often as well, that lead to some sort of aggressive expression. Sometimes it was also because their technical abilities to escape the three chord-guitar-trap just hadn’t developed then. The Hundred In The Hands’ songs totally lack that sort of anger. Their music just doesn’t hurt anyone.
I been thinking about if I heard a hit? I don’t really think so. There is nice melodies but none to settle down in my long-term memory. Although this is perfectly produced dance pop music ultimately real catchiness is lacking as well as something to wake and shake you.
But young and good-lookin’ people like the band themselves probably will get into this easier than me. Figure out yourself if this is a compliment or the opposite – The Hundred In Hands’ music would fit a fashion show. Which would mean nothing good if they were an Oi!-band. But they aren’t so it’s probably gonna be a fashion show with a nice soundtrack.
See, I haven’t talked about elevators… now did I?
Ask me for a score and I’d give this selftitled debut album something like 6,3 out of 10.
…but it may grow on me, maybe.
Review by Ernest Drake/DJ Phoney