5 out of 5
Label: 54’40 or Fight!
Produced by: Various
Anyone in a band would hope that when you go back and dig up their first band’s odds and ends, and smash them together on a compilation, that it holds up 5% as well as Hatest Grits, a collection of proto-supergroup Hubcap’s everything – their one album, one 7″, a compilation track, live tracks, and doodles, and nonsense, and a whole bunch of stuff totaling 26 tracks and 70 minutes.
…That it holds up this well, twenty plus years after its recording (as heavy, as funny, as emotional, as complex, as any post-punk-rock-math-indie you could find today), and that it somehow all stitches together so perfectly as an album, even when you’ve got demos and live tracks of the same songs you heard X amount of tracks ago appearing.
Comprised of future Dianogah and Haymarket Riot folks, working with Steve Albini and Bob Nanna, Hubcap capture a particularly loud formular of angular rock that, had I seen them live while trying to get my own music thing going back in their day, I would’ve quit right out – because Hubcap have got it all covered, and without it coming across as scattershot. Extreme punk metal kicks things off; there’re brief krautrock workouts; ther’re raw quiet-to-loud instrumentals; some “straight-ahead” post-rock jams; I’m guessing the lyrics may not be up to snuff, but the way they’re emoted (or shouted) works to get the point across, and they’re added in sparingly enough that you don’t feel the need to deep-dive analyze.
The recording style forefront the bass – which is Jay Ryan’s, so it sounds fantastic – but the smooth, popiness of this sound runs parallel to the harsh, staccato guitar (William Smith) and shred-the-skins drumming (Andrew Zboralski); because this has an in-built organic vibe (mixing the melodic with the unsteady), the album tracks which kick off this comp mesh, tonally, with the demo and live songs; the hiss of the demos could actually pass muster as purposeful, given the way these track are sequenced between some sound snippets and whatnot.
Transitioning to the live stuff also works because of how “live” the album sounds, and because in concert, Hubcap plays even louder, and… faster. So the end of the disc functions almost like a drugged-up remix of what we just heard, and it’s wonderfully intense.
Cap it off with a nonsense instrumental / noise mish-mash; pack the liner notes with background on each track. And now again, I asked you to go back and look at whatever your first published / produced work was: yeah, Hubcap is certainly a lot louder and brattier than stuff in these peoples’ futures, but they nonetheless still kicked the pants off of however many bands that’ve followed that can’t manage this amount of catchiness and awesomeness and heft on more than one or two songs, save a 26-song set.