Short of calling your LP a best-of when it's anything but, Recommended Record is about as headline-friendly as tongue-in-cheek titles come. The notion that it's indicative of a self-deprecating sense of humour is given strength by Kent four-piece It Hugs Back`s choice of opening and closing tracks - playful noise-popper "Sa Sa Sa Sails" is defined by a key-driven ditty, a joyous foreshadow perhaps to the up-tempo psyche-pop finale, which to these ears recalls whimsical maestro Andrew Bird in part.
Yet, with a back catalogue that more commonly nestles between dreamy indie and kraut-rocking jams, this one-time 4AD band are not primarily known for sunny silliness however, and, on occasion, are surprisingly loud for an outfit with one of the most twee names in history. Hitting not unlike The Horrors, take the crunching guitar and assaulting organ of "Big Sighs" for example (a track which coincidentally also features a crying debut from bassist Paul Michael`s new-born daughter Lily). Whilst undoubtedly a product of "proper" rock, it's nevertheless difficult to reconcile it or any other cut with guitarist Matthew Simms` claim that Recommended Record sounds like "Nirvana playing Steely Dan".
It's probably fairer to categorise the running order in terms of last year's Laughing Party album, for, then as now, the majority of it relies on laidback interplay to make its point - "Sometimes" may run its through with electronic patterning, the dynamic "Go Magic!" with serious guitar work no doubt borrowed from Simms' on-going stint as guitarist for post-punk legends Wire, the repeato-kraut of "Piano Drone" with sci-fi synth even, but it's a constant all the same.
It's disappointing to note then that all this good work is partially undone by a fairly limp close punctuated only by "Waiting Room", the most serene of Recommended Record`s many faces and one that is given a mild early-90s flavour thanks to its gentle guitars and Simms' distinctive breathy vocal. When you've so many irons in the fire though, it's almost inevitable that quality control will suffer in this manner, but despite its shortcomings Recommended Record remains just that, reconfirming It Hugs Back as one of the more adventurous British indie bands on today's circuit.
Advised downloads: "Big Sighs" and "Go Magic!"Read more ›