To make your band stand out with a distinctive sound you can do one of two things: add more instruments for a fuller sound, or take away instruments for a more stripped down one. The trio I Heart Hiroshima from Brisbane, Australia has found a way to do both at the say time. In stripping down, they have removed the bass, leaving Susie Patten on drums with Matthew Somers and Cameron Hawes on guitars. Doing so has obviously given them a raw garage sound. But they have also bulked up by having Patten and Somers trade off on lead vocals, creating great back and forth harmonies that resonate in your head long after the song is over. The end result of using both techniques indeed set I Heart Hiroshima apart from the crowd. Their full-length debut Tuff Teef showcases this unique sound with 12 catchy songs that is bound to infect any party.
The attraction of I Heart Hiroshima is how their sound is orchestrated. Keeping with the idea of stripping down and bulking up at the same time, the songs are rather simple but layered beautifully. For example take their first single “Punks,” an upbeat danceable song that may remind you of bands like Sleater-Kinney. Patten’s smooth, light vocals sing, “I keep trying to start not to stop. Often on, often off,” repeating those lines four times before Somers’s louder yell arrives to provide backup. He then takes over offering his own, “Don’t lock your doors, I have these punks on the ropes.” They work the female and male vocal combination remarkably well; particularly because the vocal styling of each is so different they directly compliment each other.
“Crook’d” is another track in which that dynamic shines. This time Somers starts first, yowling through the first verse until his bandmate’s serenade arrives as a calm effect. Not that the two-vocalist/dueling-sexes system is something groundbreaking. From Fleetwood Mac to Sonic Youth, and more recently Rilo Kiley and The Kills, bands have used the construction to varying degrees. But I Heart Hiroshima’s contradictory singing styles arrive in each song at the precise moment the other needs it to.
The only down point of Tuff Teef’s song composition is that it rarely changes and somewhere towards the end of the album it starts to get repetitive. The tempo for the most part stays the same, the overly repeating lyrics remain, and the back and forth male/female vocals continue throughout. While “Throw That Metal” and “Captain to Captain” are good songs on their own, by the time they arrive you start to ask yourself, “Didn’t I just hear this song?” However, the band is able to close on a good note with “Stop That,” by starting with a simple rhythm and then building the guitars into a frenzy.
In the end, Tuff Teef should help the band register on the indie map. Looking past the two-vocalist makeup, it is a great collection of fun songs that should have everyone singing and dancing along. At the very least, you’ll have some you’ll have some fresh tunes to liven up the party; and at the most you’ll be saying, “This is my favorite new Australian band!” It’s been along time since INXS, and Jet can’t be the only contender to the Aussie crown.
Highlight Track: "Punks"
Rating: 7.5 / 10
THIS REVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON STEREO SUBVERSION.