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Hesher

Self-Titled Debut

(Warner Bros.; US: 13 Mar 2001)

Hesher, aka Chip Love, is being touted as “the next Beck”, which is probably our generation’s answer to the crippling “next Dylan” tag of the ‘70s and ‘80s. I know it’s all marketing, but such labeling historically places unfair pressure and expectations on artists, leaving them unable to develop naturally. Hesher will probably fall prey to the same fate, because it’s not Beck that he most resembles. Sure, he’s got the whole rock/rap thing going, but what band doesn’t these days? Besides, Beck has a sense of studio-geek playfulness and precision all his own, and even when he’s not innovative, he’s at least highly entertaining. Hesher, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like the next wave. Rather, he feels like a throwback to the formative days of The Beastie Boys, and when other rock acts were clumsily trying to get a handle on this whole newfangled rap thing.


That said, there’s nothing clumsy about Hesher’s mix of rap lyricism and rock grooves, but there’s really nothing inspiring either. The rock backing is competent, but never raises itself to the level of interesting. And Hesher’s rhyming style is pretty straightforward, with none of the speed or stylistic flourishes that mark today’s more prominent—and intriguing—rappers. Hesher’s sound is definitely modern in that his mix of style is fluid, befitting a generation that doesn’t seem to acknowledge the hard and fast programming or stylistic lines that older listeners subscribe to. But the throwback feel comes in the generic feel of the riffs and the uninspired use of samples and effects. This is despite the presence of heavy hitters like Warren Haynes, Everlast, Chino Moreno, and Biz Markie guesting on the disc.


Tracks like “Presto Chango” and “High Plains Grifter” are perfect examples of this, while “Whose Generation” lifts The Who’s “My Generation” wholesale and unsuccessfully tries to update it with a little street vibe. “High Plains Grifter”, for its part, contains a decidedly “Magic Bus” percussive feel, but that’s about as far as the “name the influences” game will take you. Lyrically, Hesher can definitely feel like early Beastie Boys, since “American Cheese Sandwiches” is about, well, cheese sandwiches, and the hardcore rock vibe of “Lighter Thief” is a screed against exactly that, a lighter thief. Add it all together, and you don’t have a band that isn’t worth listening to, but you do get one whose voice isn’t singular enough that it doesn’t just make you head for an old Beck or Public Enemy album.

Andrew Gilstrap is a freelance writer living in South Carolina, where he's able to endure the few weeks each year that it's actually freezing (swearing a vow that if he ever moves, it'll be even farther south). Aging into a fine curmudgeon whose idea of heaven is 40 tree-covered acres away from the world, he increasingly wishes he were part of a pair of twins, just so he could try being the kinda evil one on for size. Musically, he's always scouring records for that one moment that makes him feel like he's never heard music before, but he long ago realized he needs to keep his copies of John Prine, Crowded House, the Replacements, Kate Bush, and Tom Waits within easy reach.


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