Harlem - Oh Boy - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Harlem - Oh Boy

by Tim Sentz Rating:6 Release Date:2019-02-15
Harlem - Oh Boy
Harlem - Oh Boy

Harlem hasn’t made a record since their debut in 2010 – Hippies. That un-Googleable band at the time had a small following and collected quite the crowd when I saw them at Lollapalooza 2010. Their brand of garage rock at the time was refreshing. Hippies had all the necessary ingredients for an indie rock breakthrough – “Someday Soon” specifically showed up on indie rock playlists for years after.

Back in 2017, the band reunited for live shows, and now nine years after their debut record, the Texas band returns with Oh Boy. And “oh boy” indeed. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Oh Boy. It’s a modest release, effortlessly enjoyable on the level of its genre limitations. Tracks like “Swervin” and “Cry Now Cry Later” show a bit more progression lyrically from Curtis O’Mara and Michael Coomers, which is great considering it’s been such a long time. This sudden burst of output – Oh Boy is just one of Coomer’s projects, his solo project Lace Curtains returned in 2019 too, releasing a new album A Signed Piece of Paper just last month – is necessary to get a jumpstart and cover ground missed.

What’s lacking is the evolution of sound from Hippies. The debut showed off their quirkiness smothered in garage rock crunchiness, but Oh Boy seems to rely on the same methods that a band like Parlor Mob used to get noticed. And while they might not be as energetic as The Black Lips, they still try to sound a lot like them on Oh Boy. This is a more mature record as far as content, “Click Your Heels” is a slow-burning ballad, but the rocking out they did on Hippies is mostly erased. It makes for a homogenous listen, very little distinction from track-to-track. It’s a shame because Harlem’s core songwriters are talented, they know how to write a good hook, it’s just that Oh Boy is overly long for a record of this style and delineates very little.

On the plus side, it’s good to see Harlem back after the overly long absence. My hope is that this is will be a jumping off point for them and they can continue to expand their sound. Oh Boy isn’t a dud by any means – it’s a fun garage pop record, for fans of Smith Westerns’ Dye It Blonde or Girls’ Album – two records that haven’t aged super well but are still fun to listen to today.  

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