A novelty single can either make or break a new band. It's too early in the game to tell which will happen to Dynamite Hack, but they've definitely put themselves into the position that either could happen. Their cover of Eazy-E's "Boyz-n-the-Hood" (yes, the song that inspired the John Singleton movie's title) has been racing up the playlists at alternative radio stations across the country. It's been prominently featured live on the much lauded Farmclub.com show on the USA Network, which is a cross between Total Request Live and 120 Minutes for all of you who still watch MTV and haven't heard of Farmculb.com yet. Of course, the Farmclub.com connection isn't all that impressive since the record and the show are both licensed to Universal and Farmclub.com owns the licensing to this album. But no matter, it's still national exposure.
And "Boyz-n-the-Hood" is a great novelty cover. Take four white guys, give them accoustic guitars and the ability to strum the odd Beatles chord, and have them singing ghetto rap from one of the original gangstas. Not just singing it, but singing it sweetly, so the hard edged lyrics come off as an anthem, or a ballad. It's classic radio fodder, and destined to earn Dynamite Hack a position on compilation albums and homemade mix tapes. And beyond all that, it's funny. Eazy-E signaled the death of my interest in rap and hip-hop, coming as I was from an old school angle that had no place for gangsters and violence. Dynamite Hack's cover of Eazy-E is a nod that we may have come full circle, and while it hasn't brought me back to hip-hop, it definitely pulls some nostalgic strings. At least long enough that I can laugh while I sing along.
But, like I said, a novelty first single can break a band just as easily as make them. The problem in most cases, and most especially in the case of Dynamite Hack, is that the listener gets no indication of what the rest of the band's music is like. What about the rest of the songs? The originals?
What do they sound like?
Actually, Dynamite Hack's real music isn't half bad. In fact, it's darned good, in a genre sort of way. They certainly fall into the pop-punk category in many respects, but they're saved from the mundane by virtue of being excellent musicians. And somehow, by a thread, there's enough diversity in their music that they don't sound entirely repetitious or derivative. As I listened, I picked up strains of other artists that Dynamite Hack could conceivably be compared to, and these included The Ramones, Bush, a smidgen of The Cars, Stung Out, Green Day, Weezer, and even a slight touch of Blink 182. But more importantly, they sound relatively unique at the same time. Having your own sound is tough in the pop-punk world, but Dynamite Hack pulls it off pretty well.
The songs are unfortunately hit or miss. There are a few songs which, while they definitely rock in their own right, are lyrically obtuse or just not innovative musically. The opening track, "Switcheroo," is so lyrically unengaging that the song falls flat. "Pick Up Lines" comes across as filler as well, although this may have something to do with being in the unfortunate position of having to follow "Boyz-n-the-Hood" in the track order. The final (listed) song, "Marie," is simply made up of the line "she takes me in she takes me out" repeated over and over, making this album fizzle down to nothingness after "BNTH."
But there are moments that are true gems. "Anyway" as recorded by Dynamite Hack is only a so-so song, especially compared to the version that makes up the hidden track at the end of the record and which is sung by the beautiful voice of Emily Kate. But DH's version contains the song's one real saving grace, the single-breath line "I just don't care enough about this to make the effort to show you that I care enough to try to get you back in bed with me."
"Dear Kate" is the obvious choice for their next single, and is a silly but fun tribute to supermodel Kate Moss. Musically and lyrically this song is the most friendly and fun and is sure to elicit more laughs over lines like, "They all say you're flat, they all say / Your face looks like Eric Stoltz in Mask." Of course, the narrator disagrees and goes on to claim she sets his heart on fire, etc. "Blue Sky" is the only other song on the album where Dynamite Hack slows it down to the "BNTH" level, but it's just as good and had me thinking a little of the Judybats with Gavin from Bush on vocals.
Dynamite Hack doesn't write ballad-y songs as part of their formula, but their ability to pick an acoustic guitar compliments their electric songcraft. And "Granola" might be the other funny, semi-novelty song that makes this amusing album worth buying. Excellent.
Now the question becomes whether or not Universal is going to recognize enough profit and success from "Boyz-n-the-Hood" to really back Dynamite Hack, although the company has released press releases confirming that they would. If the band can get "Dear Kate" on the airwaves in a timely manner, maybe they'll see the success with their own music that they deserve. If not, "Boyz-n-the-Hood" could be the one shot into stardom for this band and hopefully they'll enjoy the ride while it lasts. After listening to Superfast a few times, I'd like to see it be the former.