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Album Review: High Society Torture Party by The Fucking Hotlights

The Fucking Hotlights

High Society Torture Party

(Self released)

It would be a crime to ring out 2011 without mentioning one of the strongest releases birthed by this city in quite some time, by one of it’s hardest working bands, no less. The Fucking Hotlights have crafted something special here, so I’m going to let the accolades fly. These gents have earned it.

When a band comes out with something, it’s usually easy to imagine what scene they run with. Whether it be punk, hardcore, indie, twee, folk, klezmer, zouk, whatever. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, it’s just the natural way of things. In a rock and roll timeline it’s all too easy to be caught up with tracing our steps back to much loved musical pioneers and staples of the past so much that no one really tries to branch out enough to keep the tree growing. However, with High Society Torture Party you get the sound of five guys marching to their own theme, and that theme is altogether crazy and enthralling. Sure, you can catch flashes of Stooges, Jesus Lizard, Melvins, Converge and MC5 out of the corner of your eye but for the most part you find yourself wondering what other worldly demon came to earth to conjure these sounds because they clearly weren’t born of man and woman.

These songs are filled with odd time signatures galore and an unabashed heaviness while still boasting a looseness that every hardened garage band needs in order to tug at a listeners inner ear. This ensures that they’re feeling the music just as much as they’re hearing it. There’s something very mechanical yet organic about the Hotlights. You can almost visualize gears grinding like clockwork controlled by pulleys and levers like some kind of rock & roll Rube Goldberg machine.

Things start off with “Revival,” a serious gate crasher of a tune. This is chopped and screwed punk, which spills over into a paranoid dirge at the halfway point complete with dissonant guitar noise, terrifying yelps and guttural moans all driven crazy by a rhythm section displaying all the ominous fury of a villainous monster closing in on its victim. “Awful Ends” is a beautifully broken math-rock tune from hell with an off kilter raked guitar line that will make your skin crawl, while “Lip Service” roars with an intensity that could best be compared to an  imaginary Stones and Motorhead collaboration. “Hammering of the Goldbeaters” is a closing song of epic proportions. Incredibly technical, full of swagger, and at times downright theatrical. A great example of how tastefully psychedelic heavy music can be.

There it is. Willfully abrasive, punk in spirit, and pure rock & roll in delivery. Most importantly High Society Torture Party could set as a new high water mark and serve as a reminder that while it’s fun to ape your influences it’s always more important to build something new. That said, The Fucking Hotlights have one hell of a foundation started. —eric kendall

Next up: The Fucking Hotlights live w/ School Shootings (Rochester), Everything Falls Apart and Ida Sessions. Wednesday (Dec 14). Mohawk Place (front stage, like way back when!) 7pm/$5