As Britain freezes in a blanket of ice, thousands of people across the country have found themselves trapped (!), entombed in their cars and homes, afraid to rear their fear ridden faces in case of instant frostbite, fractured bums or death by polar bear. A perfect time then to reawaken (or reimagine) those lost summer memories with one of the most overlooked, feel-good albums released all year.
Harlem’s sophomore LP, Hippies probably won’t top any of end-of year best of lists, but unlike some of the more questionable appearances in these lists, what it will do for years and years to come, is thrill. Thrill and placate in the way only certain albums can. Think The New Fellas by The Cribs or Black Lips’ Good Bad Not Evil.
It’s a special sort of sound that eschews over-production not for lo-fi brownie points, but for purity. In Hippies’, Austin ,Texas-based Harlem blast through sixteen songs in 40 minutes. Just to put that into context, Paul Weller recently got rimmed for doing the same amount of songs in 60. Don’t get me wrong, at no time does Hippies ever feel convoluted but they pack in hooks like there’s no tomorrow and it’s something that right now at the arse-end of 2010, feels as fresh as a Huggies wet-wipe.
Songs like ‘Pissed’, ‘Cloud Pleaser’, ‘Someday Soon’, ‘Spraypaint’ and ‘Poolside’ are so bloody simple in their brilliance they make the sonic ‘reinvention’ of bands like These New Puritans seem utterly redundant. Honestly, what’s the point in all this experimentation of late? Sure it’s interesting but unless you’re some kind of cold eyed, chin-stroking Indie Nazi with a five foot stick up your arse, I can’t imagine one mood where you’d favour Hidden over Hippies. Because Harlem know that all you need to lift your mood is the right kind of hook. Boy do they know, they’ve got tons of them! Whether it’s the cooler than cool riff that kick-starts stand-out track ‘Gay Human Bones ’, the stoned, southern fried atmospherics of ‘Three Legged Dog’ or the haunting, minor chord change in ‘Prairie My Heart’, on first listen you’re bound to hear something that you’ll just want to hear again, and again, and again.
If you’re a fan of simple, Spector-like chord progressions, sing-a-long choruses, youthful melodrama, melodic Beach Boysy melodies, background fuzz and lyrics about what it’s like to be young and stupid, then you’re in luck because Harlem seemingly have all this and more simply woven into their DNA . Their songs come out of the speakers with so much ease, you feel like you’ve known them your entire life. And the best bit about the album is that it sounds like they’ve literally turned up to the practise room, plugged in and played. It’s so effortless and cool it makes you feel cool. So go forth, be happy and listen to Hippies. You won’t be disappointed.