The Hunches

Hobo Sunrise

(In the Rec Records; 2004)

By Sean Ford | 14 November 2007

These are tough times for me. I’m a rabid NBA Basketball fan and watching Team USA (comprised exclusively of NBA players, a supposed "Dream Team") get repeatedly embarrassed by countries a hundredth the size of America is a little distressing. All issues of American arrogance aside, this is one of the few sports America is supposed to dominate; the fact that these supposed NBA All-stars are getting waxed by forty year-old, over weight players from countries that don’t have access to the kind of training facilities and advantages inherent in major American sports is pretty shocking to most fans of the NBA. Some see it as the second horseman of the apocalypse, heralding the end of America’s “Super Culture;” others just see it as a condemnation of the American style of basketball that favors high-light reel slam-dunks over team oriented play.

But, watching the games, I see something different: the players just don't want to be there. They’ve been dragged to Greece by the NBA to sell the game, they aren’t being paid, they’re supposed to go out and dominate teams that want nothing more than to beat them senseless, and they are just not having fun. I keep waiting for a moment in one of the games to be like a stereotypical sports movie where the players all at once re-discover the love of the game on a big play, or where they come out fired up from a half-time speech where the coach has told them to “just have fun out there.” But that’s just the problem. They’re not having any fun.

It strikes me as an interesting metaphor for a lot of the music scene in these days. Just as a bored and unhappy basketball team won’t be beating anybody, a bored and unhappy rock group won’t be rocking anybody. I’ve been to so many concerts lately where bands just seem to be going through the motions and look almost bored on stage. Are bands like the Strokes just going through the motions at this point, finding it impossible to recapture the excitement of their debut album? Is anyone just making music for the sheer fun of it anymore?

Well, believe it or not, amidst the throngs of major label image-manicured acts and soulless hacks, there are actually still bands that can have a good time. Count the Portland-based Hunches as one of those bands who still know how to have fun and are willing to go to violent measures to do so. The incongruently titled Hobo Sunrise stands as a screaming call to arms and stubborn refusal to grow old. The first page of the liner notes reads: “The world will someday get me on some ludicrous pretext; I simply await the day they drag me to some air-conditioned dungeon and leave me there beneath the fluorescent lights and soundproof ceilings to pay the price of scorning all that they hold dear within their little latex hearts.” It’s a borderline ridiculous, but a clearly sincere 'fuck you' to the idea of "selling out" and "growing up" that recalls the scruffy faced pseudo-poetry of a college drop-out at a coffee shop. The Hunches may not be growing up anytime soon, but they certainly make a good argument for staying young on this collection of defiant guitar squall songs.

“Where Am I” starts off the affair with a cranky garage door drum beat, lo-fi production and front man Hart Gledhill screaming with a cigarette-scorched voice: “It all seems manufactured/ A life that’s terminally fractured/ And I’m searching for a reason to caaare!” The disc is full of such world-weary, beaten down, smoldering anger wrapped around spazzing, lurching, popping and jangling guitars. Alternately channeling blues riffs Stooges-style and the sheer wall of sound of early Jesus and Mary Chain, the Hunches wrap these elements into alternately laid-back or frenetically assaulting anthems, as on “Droning Fades On.” The grimy rock is almost primal here, reminding one of the very DNA components of rock: the aforementioned Stooges, Buzzcocks, Pixies, etc. Sometimes it’s a little much, as on the repetitive “I’m An Intellectual,” but I’m willing to be forgiving as the Hunches follow up that song with the fantastic Pavement/Jesus and Mary Chain reminiscent “Nosedive.”

The Hunches gift-wrap rock songs and pop gems in trashy squalls of sound, slivers of white noise and guitar chunkery. Complemented by cacophonous drums that sound like a madman trying to break into your little sister’s bedroom and Gledhill’s scorched and world-weary voice, the Hunches have the weapons to search and destroy. “When I Became You” is a slice of this filthy beauty, and “Two Ghosts” is another rawk-ish, yet deceptively poppy gem that would fit as comfortably in the early eighties underground as easily as it would fit in the early nineties.

The charred explosiveness and gritty sound car-crash surrounding their anthems and pop songs make for a rollicking and fun listen. To be sure, a lot of bands have recently tried to revive the idea of garage-rock, but garage-rock wasn’t always about wearing tight pants and sleeping with supermodels. In rock, as in basketball, having fun is a big part of doing it right; The Hunches are a band that rocks in a garage because it’s where they can play good and loud and have a grand old time. Their filthy, melodic, dark, wall of sound rock songs are the sound of a band refusing to grow old and give in to stereotypes and labels---the sound of rocking for the sheer fucking fun of it. More power to them.