Harlem - Hippies - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Harlem - Hippies

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2010-04-26

When a band titles their first long-player Free Drugs, you can pretty much assume they have a certain mindset. Either that or chronic back pain. Austin three-piece Harlem, who of course did use that title for their debut, return now with Hippies, and once again you kind of feel safe making assumptions what you're getting. Hippies certainly never gets close to ponderous prog or wince-inducing witterings about goblins and dragons but it is carefree, sunny music and you suspect its makers have gone to some effort to ensure it sounds like it could have been made sometime in the mid-60s.

Rather than whimsical English psychedelic pop or overwrought West Coast psychedelic rock, however, Harlem have chosen to synthesise the nerve-edge jangle of The Velvet Underground's third album, the garage band sounds collected on the legendary Nuggets compilations and the uptight r'n'b of mid-60s mod. Unsurprisingly, much of Hippies sounds like The Strokes, but it's The Strokes if they spent a whole album trying to nail the bubblegum 60s pop of The Archies' 'Sugar Sugar'. Tracks like 'Number One' and 'Friendly Ghost' zip along on sun-dappled riffs while singers Michael Coomer and Curtis O'Mara yelp about flowers and wanting to disappear.

Probably the best track here is 'Gay Human Bones', which lives up to its wonderfully odd title by sounding like Pixies playing live in a candy rainbow wonderland. However, at 16 tracks, this album is definitely a little too long even though many of the tracks barely nudge the two-minute-thirty mark. Mainly this is because Harlem have one sound and they seem pretty satisfied with it. Ultimately, whether you keep coming back to this simple, sweet and slightly strange little record depends on how addictive you find that sound. To some, Hippies will be just a pleasant diversion, to others it'll be like discovering a greatest hits by the best 60s band they've never heard of.

Richard Morris

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