I didn’t hear Out Hud’s S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D until almost a year after it came out, but that didn’t stop me from including it on my “Favorite Albums Of 2003” list. It was simply too fun, too exciting, and too good not to. It’s easily one of the most interesting things Kranky Records has released to date, due in large part to the fact that it’s probably the most accessible and — dare I say? — funnest release in the label’s catalog. Obviously, I couldn’t wait to hear what the group would do next.
Let Us Never Speak of It Again doesn’t quite pick up right where S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D left off. The same high-energy, ass-shaking sense of rhythm and groove is still present, only in a much more refined and less spastic form. The Gang Of Four influence, often felt in the debut album’s jagged, strafing guitar lines, is largely absent. The new disc is far less skronky and cacophonous, its melodies having been burnished to a chrome-like, Euro-chic sheen.
Much of that probably has to do with the inclusion of female vocals courtesy of Phyllis Forbes and Molly Schnick, who coo, preen, and strut their stuff from one end of the album to the other. For the closest parallel, you may need to move outside the normal bevy of Kranky comparisons and reach all the way back to the disco era. As if out of necessity, they tame some of the more extreme and jagged elements that were prevalent on S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D, but which would only get in the way here and trip things up needlessly.
After the digital drainage of “This Just In,” the band quickly gets into a groove that they rarely leave on the disc. The female vocals are right there from the get-go, while Ibiza-influenced rhythms (it’s all programmed, no more live drums, thank you very much) just seem to pile up behind, waiting for the guitar on the bridge to come through and sweep away the wreckage.
“One Life To Leave,” the album’s first single, bounces along on an ever-growing wave of metallic synth lines that seem rather Röyksopp-ish, echoing piano notes, shards of guitar shrapnel, and even bouncier keyboards. “Old Nude” is one of the disc’s slower tracks, the pace of its shimmery guitar strums and cooing vocals almost qualifying as slinky and seductive. And then, out of nowhere, a graceful and slightly mournful string arrangement emerges from the sequencer banks, breathing in a slight amount of human warmth.
However, this newer, more polished sound also results in a certain uniformity that blends all of the tracks together. Whereas the tracks on S.T.R.E.E.T D.A.D all had identifiable personalities, Let Us Never Speak of It Again’s tracks lack that same uniqueness. On the one hand, this lends the album an incredible sense of consistency, the aforementioned “groove” that I was talking about. On the other hand, you might get this feeling that by the time you head into the album’s final third you’ve already heard every single trick in the group’s arsenal at least 3 or 4 times (especially on the disc’s epic, the 11-minute Juno-driven “Dear Mr. Bush, There Are Over 100 Words For Shit And Only 1 For Music. Fuck You, Out Hud”).
At first, I admittedly leaned towards the latter impression. I liked the album but found that the disc slowly sank into the background sometime after the halfway point. Even so, there was something about the album that kept compelling me to pop it into the player and listen to it 2 or 3 times straight through, that kept me from skipping through what seemed like the disc’s more drawn out moments, such as “Dear Mr. Bush….” As a result, I now find myself leaning more toward the former opinion, the groove having fully captured me.
Is Let Us Never Speak of It Again as exciting and mindblowing as S.T.R.E.E.T.D.A.D? Well no, not quite. But I don’t really think that’s what the band was going after. Looking back, the debut felt less like an album and more like a collection of great ideas all crammed together into a 4-track and left to duel it out, natural selection style. Let Us Never Speak of It Again feels more like an album proper, one with a consistent tone and comfortable depth that never fails to bring about toe-tapping and booty-shaking (even when it’s giving the bird to the current administration).