Shoegaze has made a comeback. Recent years have seen artists like The Horrors and Deerhunter leading the revival of the genre that blossomed in the eighties and nineties. Hell, even groundbreaking shoegazers My Bloody Valentine regrouped to release their first album in 22 years, with 2013’s MBV and returned to the stage to significant acclaim. So, continuing the increasing popularity in the genre is R.M. Hendrix, with his latest album Urban Turks Country Jerks.
Seeing that is was originally approached as a double album, you might expect a disjointed experience, but no, Hendrix holds the record together impressively, even as he explores a range of styles. The album starts strong with the trio of ‘Blood Work Skit’, lead single ‘Wasted Summer’ and ‘In This Daydream’. The first is an attention grabbing introduction to the album, its reverberating vocals being the highlight. The second is akin to The Horrors, circa Skying, with its chorus that breaks through the waves of reverb-drenched guitars in a euphoric fashion. The third begins with beautifully melancholic instrumentation, which builds slowly, but Hendrix changes pace and becomes more assertive, culminating in a terrific outro that is closed by Steve Scully’s powerful drumming.
In the middle section, the quality of the album wavers, with songs like ‘Stars in Your Eyes’ and ‘Kindness of Strangers’ both well-written and performed, but ultimately unexciting. However, perfectly placed at the centre of the record is ‘Sister Cat, a blistering jolt of energy, with its catchy guitar riff and uptempo drums. Concluding with a distinctly Sonic Youth-esque outro, it is one of the album’s strongest moments. However, despite this slightly uninteresting middle, Hendrix gets things back on track with ‘Paper Lies’, a song that drives forward affirmatively and ends with the earworn of a refrain (“You can buy the preacher, but you can’t buy me.”) The penultimate and appropriately titled ‘Frost Heaves’ possesses a slinky quality which is underpinned with a sense of calm offset by melancholia. Stark contrasting with the previous song is the nimble ‘Those Were Dark Days’, as it ends the album on a positive note, conveying a feeling of redemption , which seems to ultimately triumph over the romantic pain the narrator appears to be moving on from. It’s also the best of the eleven songs.
Urban Turks Country Jerks is indeed a promising move from Hendrix, as it sees him deliver a brand of shoegaze that is both familiar and individual, all the while taking the time to delve into other territories such as New Wave.
Words: Matt Jones
Moon Sounds Records – http://moonsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/