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The Trap

The Trap

Modern psychology tells us that first impressions – of anything from a book to a new acquaintance – are based on only the most superficial characteristics. Thus you don’t buy the book because it has the author’s name in raised gold letters on the cover, but you take a liking to that mate of your cousin’s because he was wearing an Atari t-shirt. Or possibly the other way round. The same, naturally enough, applies to bands and albums, but with HushPuppies it’s a bit complicated. On the one hand, they gain points for posing as a Victorian tea party on the cover, and more for including some kind of large stuffed rodent in the picture for no bloody reason whatsoever. However, on the other, they have a really stupid name. Admittedly it’s not quite on the same level of rubbishness as, say, Arctic Monkeys, but if rule number one of How to Be Taken Seriously as a Rock Musician isn’t “Don’t name your band after shoes” then it clearly should be. And the fact that they’re French is no excuse. They’re supposed to be more refined and witty than us Anglo-Saxon barbarians aren’t they? In any case, the upshot of this is that my first impression of this album was completely neutral, as the album cover and the name effectively cancelled each other out. So what was the point of this entire paragraph? Good question.

Anyway, on to the actual music. The album veers between moshpit-friendly upbeat indierock and a softer, more understated sound. ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ is a particular highlight – catchy, with a driving keyboard riff. Similarly impressive is ‘Automatic’, the closing number. A simple arrangement of keyboard and twin vocals, it’s probably the most distinctive song on the album, demonstrating a willingness to experiment somewhat lacking on many of the preceding tracks. ‘Bassautobahn’ is also interesting, mainly because, in its monotonous vocals and keyboard-driven bridge, it surprisingly hints at a Kraftwerk influence.

Some of the songs, though, are a little generic. By far the most interesting thing about ‘Packt Up Like Sardines In A Crush Tin Box’ is the title, with the song itself indistinguishable from at least half the indie singles played on the radio in the past three years, from its simple chord structure to the same two lines of the chorus being repeated ad nauseam. The preceding track, opener 1975, is a little better, redeeming itself mainly through the inclusion of the line “I’ll fry your bones in ice”, though the vocalist must surely have struggled to maintain a straight face while singing it. The low point of the album is the title track. Instead of music, it’s simply an indistinct recording of what might or might not be a member of the band tinkering about in his kitchen. Either it’s self-indulgence and a failed attempt to be clever, or it was a cheap and easy way to fill two and a half minutes. Either way, it was an utterly pointless addition unless there’s a clause in their contract demanding that the album be thirteen tracks long.

That notwithstanding, HushPuppies are definitely worth a listen. They may not be earth-shatteringly original, but overall they’re pretty good, and the album improves with repeated listenings. They definitely deserve at least some success, if only because of that stuffed rodent.

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