Two New LPs from NorCal
by Doug Elliott

It is fitting, in a time when bands like Eat Skull, Psychedelic Horseshit, Sic Alps and Times New Viking are grabbing headlines with their lo-fi shenanigans, that Adam Stonehouse, a.k.a. The Hospitals, unveils his most chaotic statement to date. See, if you were to ask me where exactly the roots of the new shit-pop revolution began, the conversation may just begin with Stonehouse and the Hospitals records on In the Red and Load, from 2003 and 2005, respectively. As good as those albums were at reinventing the noise-as-pop sound, though, his new LP, Hairdryer Peace, blows them away.

If Eat Skull et al. use primitive recording techniques and off-the-cuff style to turn pop songwriting inside out, Hairdryer Peace turns that notion on its head, utilizing pop technique to sculpt a new kind of noise experiment. Song fragments—a vocal melody here, a catchy bass line there—tie together a series of violent sound icebergs. It is like somebody telling you a story while the vacuum is running. There is a peace to their voice being drowned in noise. That is the “hairdryer peace.”

Stonehouse relies heavily on percussion for the backbone of most songs, with trebly symbol crashes and snare fills tackling each other for the lead. If not drums then scratched strings or warbled bass lead the way. There are, of course, times where nothing leads at all, taking an aimless route reminiscent of the Dead C’s finest moments, only in much shortage passages. Whenever Stonehouse’s vocal do manage to seep through, you’re tricked into thinking a groove is forming—that is until the moment quickly dries up and shrivels into something sounding like Twin Infinitives played backwards.

Each note on Hairdryer Peace veers toward blown-out feedback, threatening to engulf every groove on the record. Like a tightrope walker carrying a batch of barbed wire, the Hospitals’ newest record is as enthralling as it is dangerous. Some fans of shit-pop may find little to enjoy here, but those interested in the long-running history of way-out sound—from ESP Records to Sightings—will find plenty to be happy with.

After three excellent singles, Orland, California’s Nothing People finally hammer out their much-anticipated full-length. A side-to-side comparison of the Nothings’ debut single, the Problems 7-inch (also on S-S) from 2006, and Anonymous, the new record, shows a distinct difference in production and style, but not necessarily for better or worse. The trio began as a tinny, guitar-driven psych-garage unit with a heavy West-Coast leaning, modern disciples of the Twinkeyz and early Chrome. On Anonymous, the sound is more paranoid art-punk, as the band places an emphasis on synthesizers, heavy bass tracks and a fuller, thicker production. The early sound is still there, just dosed with some glam barbiturates and New York smack.

Opener “In the City” is a perfect example of the new look; buzzing synths recall Roxy Music’s debut, with a guitar solo that should please even more devoted Laughner fans. It’s proto-punk with a heavy sci-fi obsession. On the other hand, tracks like “Should’ve Known” jam extensively, leading me to believe that these cats are in full embrace of the popular records from the era as well. Toys in the Attic anyone? Nah, put on Killer.

The back half grinds things into a more interesting dust. The Crampsian beat of “Suspicious” gets my stuff moving every time, before the killer solo comes to an abrupt halt. “Omega Man” is the Bo Diddley shuffle by way of Mike Rep, while “Outsiders Are” proposes a world where the freaks are “in,” and industrial runoff is good for you. You could play “name that influence” along with most of Anonymous, but that’s not the point. At their best, Nothing People play by a new set of rules. That they’re so impeccably well versed in all things cool should not go down as a detriment. Instead, enjoy Anonymous knowing that this genre of outsider rock has a new leader.