Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Stream: The New Highway Hymnal - Whispers

I have been eagerly anticipating the debut full-length from The New Highway Hymnal since I had the chance to catch them opening for White Hills and Sleepy Sun at Boston's Church. My biggest concern was that they wouldn't be able to capture the energy of their visceral live show. That concern was immediately squashed once the first track, "Through Stained Glass", started spinning. It finds vocalist Hadden Stemp howling and shrieking over the group's droning stoner rock with all the intensity I had hoped for. Much like fellow Bostonians Sand Reckoner, they draw easy comparisons to The Black Angels, but instead of the underpinning folk influence of the former, The New Highway Hymnal has roots in punk rock.

Their live show had me singing the praises of "Factory Song" and it's unforgettable lyric of "I work in a factory / We keep the killing quiet." I'm happy to report that the studio version here captures everything that made me instantly obsessed with it. Shuffling beats, slinky bass grooves, and reverb-drenched riffs are the name of the game on Whispers. The pulsing drive and intimidating buzz of "Out with the Lights" is the kind of song you listen to while attacking a bottle of Jack Daniels in the corner of the shadowy bar that tourists avoid. In the 8+ minutes of "Hey Kid (Gotta Run)", the group take you on a field trip to revisit the progressive punk that The Stooges pioneered on Fun House. A lot of bands try combining similar elements but don't end up producing cacophonous freakouts on the level that The New Highway Hymnal present here.

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