Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, July 20, 2009
      ( 7/20/2009 08:46:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"WHY YOU ALWAYS TRYIN' TO BURN ME DOWN/ WHY YOU ALWAYS TRYIN' TO BURN ME UP?" Didn't know a thing about the band Hollands until I unexpectedly received a review copy of their debut EP Faces recently. Described as a New York duo comprised of guitarist/vocalist John-Paul Norpoth and violinist Jannine Barefield in the promo, the group appearing on the five-song disc appears to be a slightly different unit since Barefield's name appears nowhere in the credits. Instead, the second name on the creds is guitarist/violinist/electric bassist Earl Maneein, known for his more recent work in the heavy metal violin band Resolution 15, so perhaps Barefield replaced Maneein in Hollands after the band's debut was in the can?

Whatever the case, the Hollands repped on Faces has a winning alt-rock sound. Singer/songwriter Norpoth's has some of the alt-ish wavery flatness that I associate with bands like, oh, Dinosaur Jr. though it's more on key. I could do without the Strokes-styled vocal mushing that appears on some of the tracks, but that's my particular audio bias.

In any event, the group is at its best flat out rockin', which they efficiently do on three of the disc's five cuts. Opener "Strong Arm" features some nicely muted feedback, while "Over and Out" starts with guitar noise that brings to mind some of Lou Reed's more stately solo tracks before zipping into an organ backed (courtesy: Thomas Shaw) rock groove. The one dominantly acoustic number (by Maneein, interestingly enough) demonstrates that Norpoth could go the Jeff Buckley route if he so chose; it's sweetly moody with an appealing Latinate tinge.

The only duff track proves the disc's final cut: a slow and meandering piece of ponderousness entitled "High Class," which works overtime to convinced you how serious it is with all kinds of ambient computery background sounds. Okay, everybody's allowed one dud. Me, I'd rather hear Norpoth repeatedly rhapsodizing about how much he loves the freeway on "Coughing Boy," sounding like a more world-weary Jonathan Richman but still going a hundred miles an hour. After visiting the band's MySpace page and hearing how the current iteration sounds, I'm definitely curious as to how they'd fill a full-length CD.


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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