If you’re anything like me, you’ve been binge-listening to Hank Wood & The Hammerheads since they released their “Go Home!” LP in 2012 and you have considered them the best modern garage punk band…perhaps ever. Fronted by shaved, angry New Yorker Hank Wood and backed by a brood of musicians dubbed ‘the Hammerheads,’ their musical abilities are diverse to say the least: ranging from wind chimes to cowbells to auxiliary standing drums, it would be an understatement to call them an intimidating crew of musicians. Their newest LP, “Stay Home!” is another Toxic State release that diverges from the street that “Go Home!” started walking down.
To begin, some full disclosure is required – if you liked the lo-fi, crushing synth and bass that overshadowed the guitar and vocals on “Go Home!,” then get ready for something different. There’s no dog barking interlude, no 9/11 references, and surprisingly even less societal rage. The group has replaced the lo-fi sound with a much more balanced, clean sound to every component– “Stay Home!” sounds like a Brian Jonestown Massacre record rather than a Spits release. You can hear every hit of the cowbell, every smack of the drums and there’s much more southern guitar ‘twang.’ It is one of those ‘you-have-to-hear-it-to-believe-it’ situations — but believe me when I insist that by implementing this high level of attention to detail, it makes Hank & his Hammerheads that much better of a band.
Eerie psychedelic synth leads us into Hank’s world with opening hit “The Ghost.” Hank Wood rambles alongside spooky keyboards and resonating guitars which remind you of the old intensity from “Go Home!” This track is kind of misleading, upon hearing it you think you are in for “Go Home! Pt. 2” but Mr. Wood is just pulling a fast one on you. Lyrically Hank seems to obsess over a mysterious ghost that keeps knocking on his door and generally not leaving him alone. This spiritual stalker continues to try to gain Hank’s attention as we transition into “In Bookings,” which follows the same ghastly topic. Here you can hear the certain guitar licks and synth rhythms that rise through the complexity of the song. It’s a bit weird to hear the high quality chaos, but your ear gets use to it. Those who loved the ‘despair and hatred’ motifs on the last album will find solace in the tracks “Neurosis,” “This World Is Beat,” and “(What’s So Bad About) A Good Idea,” all of which sound like they could be a part of a soundtrack to a punk rock spaghetti western.
The two songs that stick out as the best are two very different songs: “I Thought I Was A Good Man” and “These Chains.” The former takes on a sort of slower, scale dancing epic of Hank looking back on who he was, while the latter consists of a bouncy chorus followed by (perhaps) the first Hammerhead guitar solo in the history of the band. The tone of the guitar on “These Chains” sounds actually pleasant, clean and uplifting. Turns out angry folks can write some pretty damn inspiring music.
The worst part about this album is actually finding a physical copy. The Hammerhead boys took everything with them as the New York natives and Blazing Eye
are currently both touring through California. There was a very quiet release party last month at the more-than-unique NYC boutique Dripper World
and I heard a rumor that they left small contingent of “Stay Home!” presses at local record store Heaven Street. I voyaged out there only to find disappointment – the rumors were false; they had no copies. Hope hasn’t left me completely, as I bet the local Boston distro heros Surveillance Investments
will have “Stay Home!” in their grubby paws very soon (they even still have a few “Go Home!” albums still in stock) and record dealing titan Adam Whites of Katorga Works
said to keep a keen eye on their website: they plan to put the vinyl up for sale within a week. But for now, I guess I will have to enjoy this digital copy I pirated and stare at this picture of this very lucky, lucky guy:
[Top 2 photos by D Andrew Reid]
[Above photo by Danny Boyd]