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Review: Harlem - Hippies

By Rue Sauvage, 03/31/2010 - 10:30am
Harlem - Hippies (2010) [Matador] // Grade: B+ Harlem is adorable. Literally: to be adored. They're also adorable, i.e. totally non-threatening and irreverent, the sort of guys whose major edge is not only knowing where to get the cheapest beer, but also which house party will be the most fun and which park is best for drinking if said party ends up bummer central. Austin epitomized: Harlem is wide-eyed bright colors and heat waves. Such a blast you can hardly stand it. Because Hippies---and last year's debut Free Drugs;-), for that matter---isn't rocket science, and they know it. Probably. The garage (ish) revivalists (sort of) at least seem totally jazzed about making songs sans bullshit. That Matador cottoned to their thing is all the better, but you get the sense that the Austin-by-way-of-Tuscon trio would be cranking out the same simply raucous rock jams regardless. Hippies is, after all, just an extension of what they've been doing all along: a few chords, a squeal of harmony, a wink, a nudge. It's like early Pixies that way; the skeleton of a mega-catchy pop song outfitted with a sense of humor and the weirdo shock of slow-mo solos ("Gay Human Bones") and out-of-nowhere drum stampedes ("Torture Me"). The hollow dissonance and heart-tugging two-note melodies that set them, bewildered, apart from their contemporaries. Harlem's all set to be the next Next Big Thing, but do they know? I don't know. And that's the crux of Hippies. The thrill of it, really, because it's all too rare: the album refuses to take itself seriously. 40+ minutes of mid-century jangle---the stylish kind, the so on-trend---and never once does it bow for a curtain call, all roses and congratulations in its cleverness. And who knows? This could all be some calculated, ego-driven exercise, less good-times than look-at-me, but the album never lets on. Rather, Hippies falls to the side of sustainable substance: distinctly go-lucky songs that, calculated or not, evoke a visceral sort of honesty. Music is fun. Fuck it. Let's dance. Buy it at Insound!
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