Hypoluxo - Running On A Fence - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Hypoluxo - Running On A Fence

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2018-09-21
Hypoluxo - Running On A Fence
Hypoluxo - Running On A Fence

Lyrical themes in modern music, regardless of the genre, tend to fall into a few well-worn categories. There is the occasional heart-felt love song, though it seems to be getting rarer all the time. Then there is its polar opposite, the heartbreak tinged  “My baby left me and I’m so miserable” grouping of howlers. Mixed in are tunes commenting on the sorry state of the world, songs that cry of the various forms of abuse out there, substance, sexual or otherwise and then there is probably the largest category. That would be the “I’m just wretched for any number of reasons and I’m going to make sure you know all about it.” Needless to say, songs of despair abound and feed the music business, and have for a very long time.

With that in mind, it has been a breath of fresh air to listen to the second full-length offering of Brooklyn based Hypoluxo. Their new album, due out September 21st on Broken Circles, is entitled “Running On A Fence”, and gives the listener a 10 chapter story of everyday life and times without making anyone suicidal in the end. I didn’t really feel like I was listening to a typical record album. Instead, it seemed like a grouping of short stories set to music, and almost all of the songs not only had a positive bend to the lyrics, but the outstanding music backing them up added to the uplifting feeling that makes the LP such a delight.

“Huckleberry” starts the disc off, with a strong beat, jangly guitars and the vocal offerings of Samuel Cogen. Cogen will never be accused of having unlimited range, as his singing resides in the lower ranges of the spectrum and stays there for the most part. He has been compared to The National’s Matt Berninger or a slightly less edgy Lou Reed, but the deep baritone sound of his voice has a soothing quality that feels as smooth as Jack Daniels on the rocks.

To open the tales performed here, “Huckleberry” is actually a story about a dog who likes to venture outside his appointed world. I don’t think I have heard a song about a dog since Henry Gross was shrieking about Shannon, decades ago. “Huckleberry” is much more enjoyable.

The shortest lyric on the record is “Insecure”, which gives us a repetitive “It’s hard to feel insecure” over a snare drum heavy pounding backbeat thanks to drummer Marco Ocampo. Dueling guitarists Cogen and Cameron Riordan set the dreamy background and bass player Eric Jaso keeps the bottom right where it should be.

“Kentucky Smooth” is basically an ode to a bottle of booze, and the writers love/hate relationship with the liquor’s influences upon him. “Should I try to let you go / Maybe switch to coffee or even Tab/I can’t decide” croons Cogen while the faster tempo of the song and the more shrill music add a slightly intense feel to the tome. The guitars launch into a surf-rock, shoegaze mixture of sound that is pleasantly inspiring to absorb. The music sounds much happier than the lyric, which allows the listener to assume a tongue-in-cheek perception to the liquid love affair.

The mood darkens with “Trust Fall”, even if the music doesn’t. I can’t say I have ever heard anyone sound so calm and nonchalant about the aching metal in his leg than Cogen does here. Again, the glittering guitars and rock solid rhythm section give the song a deceptive mood if the lyrics are fully absorbed. “Tired of the limp/ tired of the pain/ tired of the bills and everything in between” hides behind a musical track that could be the theme song of a drama TV show. This is about as close to a downer of a track as this album gets. 

Perhaps my favorite little vignette on the work is “Character Driven” which tells the story of a less than perfect rental home the writer is living in. “It’s a place where mice and roaches live in harmony” sings Cogen, and when telling a tale about the lack of heat in the winter: ”Try to turn it off / it will burn at your skin / and it will leak on the floor / heat not worth it after all”. The story also includes hearing things in the walls, dealing with always absent landlords and getting out as soon as possible, even though the house has character within. The track is highlighted by a beautiful pedal steel performance by Ian Kelman, who happens to work for Fender in Phoenix, where the album was laid down.

A short instrumental, “Theme”, serves as a brief intermission before the band comes storming back with “Dancing Shoes”. This is one of the most infectious melodies offered while the narrative about a less than successful experience at a dance goes down in the background.

“Jimmy Whispers” does a masterful job of relaying to the listener the encounter with a scary visitor to the local bar, who shows up every Thursday and terrorizes everyone around him from the same seat weekly. “Don’t stare, he wouldn’t like that / About his past. I wouldn’t ask.”  The person may be less than appealing, but the music once again betrays the story by giving us a dignifying mood and a near respectful tenor.

Jaso’s bass plucking opens up “Midnight Snack” which then evolves into a varied but effective melody which includes a bit more electronic production than other tunes. The distortion heavy guitar work later in the song also gives it a distinctive atmosphere. This is the purest rock sounding of all the cuts, and the band handles it with skill.

The title cut “Running On A Fence” closes out the album by expounding on the daily grind of riding a train car to where you need to go. The time changes in the song add to the claustrophobic tome of the lyrics, and the droning keyboard tone at the end puts the jammed train car slowing at the appointed station into your head and leaves you with a feeling of having experienced an enjoyable journey.

Eamon Ford recorded and produced “Running On A Fence” at Audile Collective in Phoenix, Arizona, and the record was mastered by Alex Previty.

In the end, I had a hard time trying to figure out which I liked more about “Running On A Fence.” While the music is top notch and includes alluring melodies and backgrounds, the lyrical content is such an outlier from so much that it out there today that it must be admired. In the final reckoning, it is the combination of both of these attributes that make Hypoluxo’s work such a satisfying listen.

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