Recording information: 2014-2016.
On their self-titled full-length debut, Chicago trio the Hecks seem to do everything but play it straight. All ten of the album's songs seem to focus on certain aspects of rock songcraft (noisy feedback, scratchy hooks, banging drums) rather than bring them all together in a straightforward manner. Opener "Sugar" immediately sounds like vintage Wire, with skeletal guitars and insistent vocals. A bassline eventually joins it, but it stops after two minutes without kicking into a drum beat. Following track "The Thaw" immediately launches into a fast, pounding beat, however, and it sounds like a thrashing, charged-up variant on a shambling Velvet Underground rhythm. The singer spouts out stream-of-consciousness lyrics about eating chocolate and feeling incredibly happy. When he stops singing, the song pauses for a calmer guitar part before a thudding industrial beat ends the song. After this, the band stares into the void for three minutes of droning noise called "Landscape Photography." By this point, all bets are out the window as to what the band will do for the remainder of the album. It continues in its own disjointed way, barreling through spoken rants over jangling guitars and booming kick drums, dissonant no wave clangers, and more spacious and reflective numbers. "Favor" is the album's most abrasive track, with piercing guitar feedback blanketing an oblong rhythm and monotone vocals. "Trust and Order" is the album's longest song, and one of two to approach the five-minute mark, but it seems to go by in half that time due to its expertly timed pacing. Instead of going for instant gratification, they take the time to build up before reaching an ecstatic peak, and it pays off wonderfully. The Hecks' album takes a few listens to get the hang of, but their minimalist garage rock deconstructions end up being quite refreshing. ~ Paul Simpson