Music

Uh Huh Her: Common Reaction

Spencer Tricker

These L.A. synth-popsters speak fluent new wave, but is it really enough?


Uh Huh Her

Common Reaction

Label: Nettwerk
UK Release Date: 2008-08-18
US Release Date: 2008-08-19
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

Session-toned and already half-famous (Leisha Hailey's a noted actress, currently starring in television's The L Word), L.A.’s Uh Huh Her resurrects the new wave with mixed results on its sophomore outing, Common Reaction. Remarkably well-versed in ‘80s sonic textures, the duo have crafted a tight-knit sound based on the interplay of Hailey’s breathy alto and instrumentalist Camila Grey’s angelic harmonies. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to salvage Common Reaction’s dull second half.

“Not A Love Song” is a sweeping introduction with some unexpected vocal turns that – like much of the rest of the album – never skimps on the synths. It’s a would-be ‘80s classic that serves as the perfect vehicle for Hailey’s sultry delivery: half-whisper, half wail. Next up, “Explode” raises the stakes with some spooky fuzz bass reminiscent of Radiohead chiller “Climbing Up The Walls.” Listen for Grey’s deft Casio grid in the final half-minute, as Hailey’s voice whips around gracefully in the upper register. Further on, “Wait Another Day” follows with an arena-sized hook and more glittering electronics, while the title track heads straight for the dance floor with a splashy hi-hat, tambourine and elegant staccato melody from Hailey.

With such solid material packed into its first half, it’s a shame that the album slides into mediocrity during act two. “Everyone” evokes both the Cure and early Michael Jackson, but little else. Likewise, the beat to “Away From Here” is the obvious work of Depeche Mode disciples, but its loping vocal melody culminates in a chorus that’s merely adequate at best. While it’s true that Uh Huh Her never set out to push the envelope, they should realize that when walking that oh-so-fine line between fresh, artful homage and iffy revivalism, the secret’s in the songs. Sadly, it’s really no exaggeration to say that “So Long” and “Dance With Me” are utterly forgettable pieces of music. Closing ballad “Dreamer” does offer some slight improvement, but it never reaches the level of the first five or six tunes.

Part of the problem is the banal uniformity of subject matter. From top to bottom, Common Reaction is a set of completely vague love songs. Looking back on the titles, it’s difficult to remember what any of the individual songs sound like. Some tracks, like “Not A Love Song” (which, – you guessed it – is an ironic title) are about brokenhearted resignation, while others (“Wait Another Day”) are about blind devotion. Overall though, the lyrical heart of the album is overtly sentimental. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but it does place an increased emphasis on the musical dressing. It doesn’t help, then, that much of it sounds borrowed on this album.

At the end of the day, Common Reaction is just another throwback to the music of the 1980s. Songs like “Explode” and “Wait Another Day” approximate the new wave lexicon expertly and are indeed pleasurable listens, but don’t expect to find anything here that’s going to make a big emotional impact. You’ve heard all of these sentiments before. You’ve heard these sounds before. The question is, how bad do you miss 1984?

5

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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