"Turn it up!" So demands Hollis Queens at the start of Lo-Hi's latest album Say It More and its opening track "Runaround". Frankly, it's good advice. You'll want to turn this album up as loud as it goes, as there's plenty of infectious energy and a solidly rocking sound woven throughout the album's 12 songs. So put down all those new garage movement albums you just bought at Wal-Mart and plug into the finest thing happening over at Tiger Style Records. If you want that New York Groove, then you've come to the right place.
In case you need the info, Lo-Hi was formed by former Boss Hog drummer Queens and Martin Owens, formerly of Speedball. Their first release featured the two (now with Hollis on guitar and vocals and Owens on drums) working together with no one else. However, for Say It More, the band has been fleshed out with guitarist Jens Jurgenson and bassist Justin Holub. Together, these four produce some lean, mean sounds on this album, and if you're a fan of stripped down rock with a lot of attitude, then you'll definitely enjoy Say It More.
Hollis Queens has the definite tough girl attitude sprinkled with the right amount of sexiness to bowl you over with these songs the first time you hear them. "Simplify! Simplify!" she demands almost desperately in "Runaround". And that, dear friends, is surely the bands modus operandi. To simplify, to strip away all the clutter and leave the core of the song intact. Rocking, pulsing, attacking you with its ideas and language. And that language is key to Lo-Hi's sound just as much as the loud guitars and drums.
"Feels like everything has gone and died / Leavin' me with a big fat question: 'Am I doin' all that I can'? / Is it even up to me piece this thing together and see / Follow it down, follow it down, follow it down" sings Hollis on "Follow It Down". She swaggers between being tough and teasing you all within the same breath. Leading the listener on down with her through whatever rabbit holes she may experience. Trust me, you'll want to go right along, all the way down to see what it is that's itching under her skin. The song also sports some tasty organ fills that bounce away nicely from the guitars and bass, pushing the music along in a nice, forceful fit.
"Three Fish" and "White All Around" seem to favor the sparse guitar and drums sounds, undoubtedly prompting some to bring up White Stripes comparisons. But fuck that. Lo-Hi have more verve and guts running through their tunes than Jack and Meg can muster throughout their sprawling and tedious White Blood Cells. Get in and get out, and do the job nicely. That's what Lo-Hi does here. "White All Around" sports a "Chopsticks" like theme before Queens and Owens burst forth with the riotous choruses.
"Dig Thru" is probably the sexiest tune on the album, sporting a fuzzy guitar line. "I wanna be your best friend tonight, sweetness uh huh" sings Hollis. "Work this out and we won't have to have no input, no output and all that crap / If these punk rock politics are getting' you down / Come to my living room and hear the new sound". It's a knowing declaration of independence from the "new thing". Like I said, trash all those comparisons and shut up and enjoy these sounds.
"Say It More" is delightfully nasty and sinister with its menacing guitar lines and Queens' vocal histrionics pushing the nervy meter up to the breaking point, while "Lucy" (an ode to Lucille Ball) charms with notions such as "She waited 39 years to have her first one / She waited two more years to have herself a son / Oh they really broke through broke through / Pregnant on TV / She's a strong woman / Even with Ricky / And Lucy was her name" as the music pogos about. Fun times for all.
"Challenge" rocks the best on this album, while the following track "Creature" explores a bit more of an abstract musical territory as it tosses off one of the best riffs ever heard. In a word, this stuff is just classy. Balls to the fore rock with the right amounts of humor, attitude and experimentation to keep things fresh and lively. Lo-Hi definitely have an original kind of groove going on here.
Highly recommended, this is a title you need to go out ASAP and snap up. Lots of great music is coming out lately that you may not be hearing, and Say It More doesn't need to be one of those discs. Perfect for driving around, sitting around and grooving to, blasting your neighbors with, or even throwing down and cutting a rug upon, this album has it all. Lo-Hi is certainly a band to pay attention to, as they most definitely could be that next big thing to uproot the next big thing. Let's hope so, anyway. A terrific album from start to finish.