Hot Snakes Carves the Surf

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  • Writing about music is like explaining a joke, a ruinous proposition. More often than not, you’re better off hearing a song in action, and you’ll have made up your mind within the first few moments. Only after nibbling on the first bit of bait and savoring the hook for a spell can one start to appreciate the greater sphere of a band.

    Nowadays, we don’t have to suffer through any tunes that don’t squeeze our souls from the start. Sure, some apps will attempt to mathematically serve up something fresh, and what does it hurt if this song and the next got nudged your way with the help of some monetary motivation from marketing.

    And yet at the same time, I appreciate the pitch. Any attempt at articulation will at least get me to click play, to let something strange in, a first tickle in the ears. The best bands could give a shit, they’re doing their thing, no exegesis necessary. You’re either on the board getting juiced by the waves, or back on the beach and asleep in the sun.

    Hot Snakes has a mile-long C.V., from their musical family tree through side-hustles as artists, skateboarders, barmen, and so much more. Sub Pop is dropping their fourth full length, Jericho Sirens, more than ten years after previous one. They practically invented the downstroke and used it to reassemble punk and garage-rock at the cellular level with acidic wit and sarcastic spittle. Their stature was set, hardly necessitating the risk of of a mediocre revival that might rust the joyful sneers of their first run.

    Jericho Sirens delivers though. It didn’t have to; the band could have just coasted a little while, content to sell out the club circuit and live on in legend and sweat-splashed cell-phone footage. Instead they brought in both drummers to split the skin duties, they dug up the old melodica, Rick Froberg still hollers in the key of vinegar. Maybe the intervening years have brought the end to mind, with four songs bearing “Death” in the title, but that doesn’t mean Hot Snakes got stone serious all of a sudden.

    Like bass player Gar Wood on the cover, Hot Snakes has always surfed the line between poignant and pissy, salty and sassy. They’re telling jokes but not for laughter, they’re skewering the world but not abandoning it. Jericho Sirens serves up the reverb stutters and heartfelt cynicism of their classics, changing very little, but that’s what’s so impressive here: despite the intervening years, Hot Snakes spray sweat and howl out just as they did a decade ago, laughing like leather-clad hyenas into the night.

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