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Hello Soldier

(Sick Room; US: 18 Nov 2008; UK: Available as import)

Clanky, joky, Shellac-tinged punk rock, not from Chicago, but near enough (Bloomington, Indiana), this debut was released on a small scale in 2005. Three Mikes make up the band—Mike Bridavsky and Mike Notaro switching off on guitar, bass and vocals, Mike Hoggatt on drums—throwing off adrenaline and sly asides like the smart-asses in the back row of geometry class. 

The general aura is punk rock, but pop, classic rock and metal quotations are spliced in, too. The opening to “Gil”, for instance, has a Thin Lizzy-ish bravado, while “Don’t Panic” begins in Pelican-esque guitar drama. Lyrics are a patische as well. “John E. Walker,” gives a nod to the old spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand”, while “Karate” lifts a lines from the Army recruiting song, but neither compromises a rip-cut, fight-picking aggression. Guitar lines jerk from note to note, clipped, terse, cutting. You can hear the pick digging half an inch into the bass strings for a deep, metal-edge, chain-clanking low-end. The drums are sweaty fire-storms, splitting slow tempo’d beats into barrages and manic fills.

And yet, for all the angst, many of these cuts have a cheerful pop core to them. “Tans Taafl” careens and veers chaotically, throwing off shards of sharp guitar, but its heart is melodic. Blasts of distortion, wobbly disconsolate rhythms frame “Paranoia of Flying”, but its vocal line runs sleek through a hedge of shouts. Hello Soldier sounds dated now, harking back to the early 1990s, rather than the 2005 original release date. Still it’s sharp and belligerent and funny, and well worth the attention of fans of Minute Men-to-Shellac style punk.


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