This is a review of Hank Wood and the Hammerheads “Go Home!” LP that didn’t make the cut for the first issue of Totally Different Head. Since the review is basically a year old and the record is over two years old, it didn’t seem as relevant to keep in, but I still liked how it came out.
There’s a certain point where “rock music” can be too smart for its own good, when there’s too much awareness, consciousness, poetry, politics, too many unnecessary members over playing their instruments, too many laptops, midi controllers, pedal boards, chord changes, delicate melodies and consideration to sound quality. Many shades of “indie music” qualify as this, and it usually neuters itself from even being rock music. But on the other end of the scale, so much current rock music is too stupid for it’s own good, where people start using it as a good excuse to not use their brains, and essentially demean themselves and their audience. A glut of current pop punk and garage rock bands have come out where pizza has become a relevant song topic, partying is a defining aesthetic, and using the same chord progression up and down the neck is considered songwriting. Essentially it’s “Dee Dee Ramone in Rock n’ Roll High School” as a genre. That bumbling dolt who can barely play bass and who’s only addition to the conversation is “Pizza!” But what most of them missed is that Dee Dee actually wrote amazing songs that just happened to be three chords/three minutes. To quote Spinal Tap, “It’s such a fine line between stupid, and uh, clever.” Which in a roundabout way brings me to Hank Wood and the Hammerheads, an NYC band whose LP “Go Home!” came out in 2012 and I completely missed the boat on until a few months ago. Here’s my tardy slip, but it’s been blasting my lobes regularly, my favorite punk record to come out since Brown Sugar dropped “Songs of Birds and Racism.” The two records are basically kissing cousins for me in that Hank and the ‘Heads play totally D-U-M-B punk rock that isn’t nostalgic sounding or dim-witted, just streetwise, tough and musically regressive in the best possible way. It’s what NY punk should always sound like even if post 9/11 NYC is a world away from the grimy fucked up bankrupt city of yore. It’s that brutal street kid honesty that’s more in the spirit of the Ramones than any band mimicing the bowl cuts and leather jackets ever could. Hank reassures us that it’s still hard on the streets, its murder, and fuck you don’t look at me. He has the good sense to realize that since no one is gonna understand what the fuck you’re yelling about anyway, a song only needs two lines of lyrics to get the point across.It’s probably more fun to just yell out “OW!” “UGH!” and “HONEH, DAHLIN, CHILD” than to figure out what else rhymes with “street” other that “feet” and “heat.”And unlike a lot of retro-obsessed garage nerds’ futile attempts at replicating Nuggets chic, the Hammerheads have all of the organ-grinding overdrive and lateral hip shake of the Sonics, but merged with the thuggish baseball bat bluntness of hardcore. It not only makes you wanna dance but spit, ball up your fist, scoot your ass on the ground or push somebody for no reason. Perfect rock n roll should make you feel like a devolved raving goon even if only for two sides of an LP or the duration of a 15 minute set.
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