3 out of 5
Produced by: Phil Ek
Label: Up Records
If we consider John Atkins as the primary force behind 764-Hero, and compare the sound of the Hush Harbor EP – by the short-lived group that preceded John’s longer-term group – to the first 764 EP, then yeah, despite having two other Seattle notables forming HH’s hardcore-tinged sound, it’s fair to consider this a proto-version of Atkins’ other works. The lyrics are perhaps a bit more directly angsty, but we’ll attribute that to youth; they otherwise carry the same poetic, vaguely dreamy imagery muddled with the mundane at which John excels: small, tight pictures of recognizable feelings. And the music, if, again, leaning more toward distorted heft and loud percussive breakdowns, shares the minimalism brought forth to Salt Sinks & Sugar Floats, and the gorgeously noisy Weekends of Sound.
But: this is proto- for a reason. Though HH gained much steam before dissolution, encouraging Up Records to bug the band to at least release something, we can also suppose the brief flame was as such because of a limited pool of ideas: a few tracks of this slowcore, raw rock is enough to get the gist. It’s passionate, no doubt, but just as John’s yelly stuff on that first 764 EP now feels rather dated, given that that was wholly HHs m.o., at least as presented here, beyond appreciating that these guys had an obvious ear for a tune – tunes which are undeniably at the core of these five songs – it falls in the bucket of college-age rage that’s interesting as a comparison, but loses impact as time goes on and we age out of that scene.
Hush Harbor is a great discovery when you’re thirsting for more Atkins material, or as you’re trawling through early Seattle formative years – Lync being a really close relative in sound. But though I’ve scavenged for every last bit of John’s output, I do find I return to his latter era, more mature work, ever more often than I do this stuff.