The sheer volume of lo-fi garage rock bands in 2016 is overwhelming. Between the monolithic Burger Records catalog and grimy split-singles filling up record store bins, the genre is approaching over-saturation. To generate excitement in the scene, a band has to find a new way to change the formula. While Hinds haven’t reinvented the genre on their debut, Leave Me Alone, they’ve found a way to make it feel fresh again.
The Madrid quartet started catching blog buzz with their 2014 demos. These rough recordings had a playfulness about them; the haphazard arrangements built character. With their first proper release, they thankfully haven’t abandoned that feeling. The production quality is just gritty enough to stay lo-fi, but offers a bit more clarity, enough to show some growth.
Hinds’ recording limitations also create a sense of space. More than any other band operating in a similar lane, they embrace the hollowness and messy production that might come from an actual garage or basement. The songs feel rugged and wild. The vocals ramble and clash over-top of each other, competing for the lead. When they do line up, it feels blissful, but the finishing of each other’s sentences is the record’s true strength. Everything feels spontaneous, as if someone recorded the songs as they were being written.
(Read: CoSign: Hinds)
The women’s Spanish accents and inflections will beg English-speaking listeners to pay extra close attention to the words. Phrases like “saliva mixed with ice” on “Chili Town” are bewitching, a twist you might not get from someone speaking in their native language. It’s not always clear what they mean, but these turns of phrase are always enticing in their surrealistic sexuality. To love like the members of Hinds is to literally flirt with danger. “San Diego”, for example, strings together drug blindness and dying from lack of affection.
The characters in Hinds’ brief stories feel fleshed out and vibrant, whether it’s the guy classifying his cassettes on “Bamboo” or the drunk texting on “Fat Calmed Kiddos”. They stand up to the bad boy archetypes on “Garden”, throwing layers of off-kilter melodies as they chant, “I feel like I’m freezing again/ And you won’t say you’re bored anymore.”
The band’s whimsical, frenzied lyricism feels like a new breed of confessional songwriting, a surreal stream of consciousness buried in a diary. This is most apparent on the ukulele ballad “I’ll Be Your Man”. Gender archetypes are thrown to the wayside as they hiss, “I could be your baby, but I’ll be your man.” It’s a lovely ode to companionship and stability that stays away from the tropes of more conventional ballads. At its best, the album takes familiar tropes and twists them until they wring out the essence of what other bands might only point at.
Garage rock typically relies on unhinged messiness and raw power. Hinds execute the genre’s touchstones effortlessly, without needing to replicate that stereotypical fuzz and burn. Making an old model feel fresh is no easy task, but Hinds largely accomplish it, embracing the intriguing sloppiness of their predecessors while making steps on their own. Who knows where this promising debut will lead, but only Hinds can guess.
Essential Tracks: “Garden”, “San Diego”, and “I’ll Be Your Man”