Music

Hello Stranger: Hello Stranger

A disappointing debut from another Californian 1980s revivalist troupe.


Hello Stranger

Hello Stranger

Label: Aeronaut
US Release Date: 2006-08-08
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

When you are the son of such famous musician as Ry Cooder, it must be really difficult to strike out on your own and make your own mark in the world of pop while avoiding the shadow of your parent. I wonder if Joachim Cooder deliberately chose a project that was light years away from his father's work? Perhaps he didn't even consider it. I mean, if you are striking out on your own, the best option would be to hook up with some unknown multi-instrumentalist and one of your oldest friends and just jam until you came up with stuff that reminded you of your teens. And then when you have just the right sound, ready to record your debut opus, as it were, the best bet would be to get Pappy to produce said record and play on 3 tracks. Oh, you wouldn't do it like that? Nah, me either.

However, there is something really endearing about this release. If you can get past the honestly, TRULY AWFUL sleeve (which in itself is no mean feat; what were you thinking, people?), you will find some really nice pop tunes. Despite their spiritual genesis in the nineteen eighties, the songs manage to remain relatively non-pompous-mentis, although the cheesy production doesn't really do them justice.

Mostly what Hello Stranger have recorded are thirteen synth-driven songs that feel like they are being played by a 1980s TV producer's idea of what a futuristic band might sound like. You can picture the scene in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century where our hero walks into a bar and a female singer scantily clad in aluminium foil croons over futuristic synth sounds. Hello Stranger don't sound quite like this but one does get a sense that they wouldn't mind if they did.

Hello Stranger consist of Jared Smith, Joachim Cooder, and Juliette Commagere, and their press release would have us believe that they are a relatively new outfit. In actuality, they used to be known as Vagenious until fairly recently. I can't imagine why they changed their name. Because Hello Stranger sounds soooo much better. Why is this important? It is important because it highlights the lack of ability to self-edit; Hello Stranger are missing a "this looks/sounds like crap" filter. While they have a number of quite good ideas, they are stamped upon by the band's failure to pan their river of creativity for golden musical nuggets; we are presented with the stuff silt, rocks, and all.

This is a real pity, actually, because once you get past the we-love-the-eighties façade, Hello Stranger are quite good. Stripped of most of the funky fromage that is present on the preceding tune, "Kubrick Eyes", "Learn Again to Feel" is a dreamy piano-led ballad that allows Commagere's vocals to really come to the fore. Similarly, on the final track, the languid, country-soaked "Let it Ride", the band slip into a more comfortable mode that just doesn't sound so forced. Here it all comes together; it is somewhat of a shame that I had to put up with the polyester pop that preceded it. Indeed, the other songs are also good but the sounds used to produce them let them down.

Therein lies the trouble: the 1980s were so twenty years ago. It would be lovely if we could just put its monsters behind us and get on with the matter in hand: living in the now. Sure, the Moog was way cool when it first came out, but things have moved on to some extent. If only Hello Stranger would put away the old gear and allow their potential to shine.

5

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image