2nd Grade Go From 'Hit to Hit' with Indie Power Pop Delights
Some sincere goofiness would feel glorious right about now. 2nd Grade, a power-pop group from Philly, have the goods we need in heaps on their full-length debut, Hit to Hit.
Hit to Hit
Double Double Whammy
29 May 2020
Here's a powerful combo: earnestness and exuberance. That's also a mix of feelings many of us might struggle to keep up with as the pandemic's death toll seems eternally rising, politics are dredging up some disgusting human behaviors and philosophies, and millions are struggling to find employment. And all this is while the media blends it all up and throws it on all of our screens like some kind of twisted Jackson Pollack painting. So some sincere goofiness would feel glorious right about now. 2nd Grade, a power-pop group from Philly led by Peter Gill (formerly of Free Cake For Every Creature), didn't plan for a pandemic, of course, but they have the goods we need right now in heaps and heaps, and they offer it up in their full-length debut Hit to Hit, out on Double Double Whammy.
"In order to be honest, you almost have to make an effort to be funny at times in art," Gill said in the press work leading up the release of Hit to Hit, and lyrically the album leans into that belief like some kind of force of nature. "W-2", the opening track, jumps right in with a blast of absurd, comedic visions about... what else but filling out a 1099 tax form, of course. The second track "Trigger Finger" proclaims, "we live in a punk rock world" directly after pondering if the teacher grades on a curve because the narrator has been sleeping through classes. We can all only hope for such a joyful expression of irreverence in any of our own lives. Later, "Shooting From the Hip" is a smile put to chords and words, simply put. And the album has 21 (!) more tracks to go from there, loaded with more playfulness than your last Zoom happy hour by far.
Musically, it's a smash and grab of alternative rock culture from the 1980s to today. "Sunkist" sounds like Sebadoh's producer kicked them in the behind and told them, "Write in a major key and liven it up for once!" "Trigger Finger" has the guitar work of a Slanted and Enchanted era Spiral Stairs after a long night of listening to the Vaselines. "Baby's First Word" slashes through noisy riffs like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion during the Matador years. "Jazz Chorus" sounds like a song from a secret Robert Pollard lof-fi band called something wild like Uncle Rock's Sweet 17. "Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider", probably the gummiest earworm of the tracks here, sounds like Jonathan Richman grew up on college rock. And it all adds up to a fun meander to help you waste away a summer afternoon.
The smell of recycled air and of blacktop cooking in the sun always snap me right back to the feeling of freedom in the summer. "Summer of Your Dreams" and "Steven's", the final two songs on Hit to Hit, both give me a similar feeling. "Summer of Your Dreams" is literally about summer and goofing around with friends, so that's an obvious feel-good-summer-song. But "Steven's" is smaller and more nuanced. It's not about anything deep, just about the narrator trying to make plans with a friend. "Have a good time at Stevens. There's always something shining through," Gill sings. With all our currently forced separation, those lines feel different than they would have months ago. Let's hope we can find our own shine through this sometimes dark mess. 2nd Grade's Hit to Hit helps remind us where to find it.