S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. by Out Hud (Review)

Holy crap… did I just use “fun, funky vibe” to describe a Kranky release?
S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D., Out Hud

As obvious as this sounds, I’ve never been able to get my groove on to a Kranky release. Sure, I’ve nodded my head and tapped my foot on occasion to the odd Pan-American song. And, I’ll admit to rocking out to Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada in my bedroom (hey man, blame it on the music). But the output of groups such as Labradford, Loscil, Low, Stars of the Lid, and Bowery Electric lend themselves better to more contemplative, restrained activities. Things like driving down the highway through a grey September fog, staring at night sky from the middle of the desert, or having a quiet, introspective moment after a long, hard day at the office.

But I can honestly say I’m getting my groove on to Out Hud. And if you’ve ever listened to any Kranky releases up to this point, you know how odd and liberating that phrase can be.

With Kranky releases, there are certain expectations as to the sounds you’ll be hearing. Namely drones, leftfield electronics, intriguing loops and effects, and whatnot. Out Hud doesn’t immediately set out to smash such expectations. Rather, they begin S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. with the slowly ringing guitars, oscillating drones, and sparse string arrangements you might expect to hear on a Labradford or Stars of the Lid release, albeit with a more defined beat. But towards the end of the track, the group’s guitars take on a more glittery, wiry shape, ringing out against the slower rhythmic backdrop in a vaguely funky manner that immediately stands out from Kranky’s repertoire.

After piquing the listener’s curiosity, the group then immediately proceeds to tear the roof off the sucka with the cheekily titled “Dad, There’s a Little Phrase Called Too Much Information.” The first two minutes find the band’s drum machines and synths in the middle of some collective epileptic fit, spitting harsh rhythmic stabs and analog squelches all over the place. But once the song gets rolling, the band begins trading volleys of brittle guitar fragments and spacey synthwork over a constantly shifting wall of sound that suggests everything from MechaGodzilla’s death rattle to The Faint to Ray Parker, Jr.

After the exuberant “Dad…,” the band takes a slightly more subdued direction on the next two tracks. “This Bum’s Paid” kicks off with a dubby beat and languid bassline that could’ve come from one of Pan-American’s more uptempo numbers, with more of Tyler Pope’s graceful guitar lines drizzled over top. Despite it’s more restrained pace (when compared with the previous track), it ends in a cacophony of guitar feedback, pummeling rhythms, and electronic fuzz that provides one of the disc’s more cathartic moments.

On it’s own, “Hair Dude, You’re Stepping On My Mystique” is a fine enough track, but compared to everything else on S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D., it just doesn’t quite measure up. It starts out as the album’s most uptempo number, with a fast-picked bassline and jittery guitars. But it loses speed and cohesion halfway through, eventually settling into a locomotive rhythm that never goes anywhere. The track as it stands feels more like a foundation than anything else, waiting for the skronky and squiggly electronics the band utilizes to great effect elsewhere, especially on the next track.

“The L Train is a Swell Train and I Don’t Want to Hear You Indies Complain” provides the deepest exploration of Out Hud’s sound, and at 12 minutes, it had better. Using “Dad…” as a test run, the band takes everything that worked with on that track, expands it, and plugs in any gaps with a whole new sense of experimentation.

The song never stops evolving, and each minute seems to bring about some new twist, which the band seques into without missing a beat. Fuzzed out basslines, hard-edged analog synths, and sparkling, fluttery electronics all get incorporated and morphed into something far more. Halfway through, Pope’s guitar takes over, leading the song further onward and upward until it culminates in a gorgeous denouement of strings, Rhodes piano, and acoustic guitar.

The album closes out with “My Two Nads,” a reprise of sorts of “Dad….” The group ups the dub and electronic elements to great effect, while also adding tribal-like rhythms throughout, giving the song a Banco De Gaia-meets-Pole feel. It certainly ends the album on a great note, keeping up the fun, funky vibe to the very end.

Holy crap… did I just use “fun, funky vibe” to describe a Kranky release? Indeed I did. S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. stands in marked contrast to the rest of Kranky’s roster, a breath of fresh air if you will. It’s a welcome addition to a musical collective whose output, while impressive, has sometimes been a bit too pretentious and cerebral for its own good (Philosopher’s Stone, anyone?). S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. has been described as “the first Kranky release aimed at your ass as well as your head,” and it’s true. This album is clearly meant to shake booties as well as boggle minds.

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