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Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens (Album Review)

Wednesday, 21 March 2018 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Rick Froberg

Few corners of the music world subscribe to the law of diminishing returns quite like reunion albums. They are, broadly, to be treated with suspicion. What are the motives behind them? Does each note contained within sound like a dollar sign rolling around in cartoon eyes? Do the band care? Do we care?

Hot Snakes care. ‘Jericho Sirens’, the garage-punk outfit’s first collection of new material in 14 years, goes hard. Over 30 years after they first got in a room together to make noise, Swami John Reis and Rick Froberg have delivered a feast of killer hooks and unremittingly gnarly riffs.

The band’s members have remained busy in the last decade and a half, reuniting as Hot Snakes in 2010 while playing together, and apart, in Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From The Crypt and the Night Marchers.

One of the great strengths possessed by ‘Jericho Sirens’, though, is its power as a self-contained piece of work. Once I Need A Doctor kicks in, history feels like a boring diversion.

Hot Snakes have always been a more rhythmically robust, adrenalised proposition than the other bands that share their family tree, and that hasn’t changed. ‘Jericho Sirens’ is a lean, no-nonsense trip with musicians who remain a ferocious unit.  Driven on by drummers Jason Kourkounis and Mario Rubalcaba, who share duties behind the kit, the LP has a couple of gears: fast and faster.

The incessant pace, though, can’t derail the meticulous streak that runs through both the direct, joyously melodic guitar work on Six Wave Hold-Down and the piercing, vicious jabs of Candid Cameras. Froberg’s voice, meanwhile, darts between the snotty, clipped phrasing of early hardcore, a wild shriek and, on the title track, a rootsy classic rock wail. He plays off Reis’s restless energy perfectly. “I came hard,” is how the latter described their creative partnership on this record.

An easy, and valid, criticism would be that ‘Jericho Sirens’ sticks to its blueprints from minute one. But that would also overlook just how much joy there is to be had in getting loose and weird during half an hour of unbridled, bug-eyed rock ‘n’ roll. Hot Snakes are back, and they are not fucking around.

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