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

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.