HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

25 March 2018

Kisses and Hugs (Raw Sugar/N=K)

This may seem like an oddity to have in my record collection but drummer Chris Strunk was (and is) a good friend, and he released this in 2001 though it documents a band he was in years before. Recorded in 1994,  Kisses and Hugs are pretty forgotten now and maybe weren't so well known outside of the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, but this compiled recordings that were meant to come out in other formats and never did. I'm not sure how this fits into the continuum of hardcore of the time or how they might be remembered now, if at all; certainly there are the spazzy explosions into blast beats and screaming, a genre known later as 'power violence', but that doesn't feel quite like the whole story to me. Yet Kisses and Hugs pulled things back from the brink and appeared to be more interested in a balance of mood and energy than just pure aggression. Certainly the 12 songs on this EP fly by quickly (it's 45rpm), and they mastered that thing 90s hardcore did where it would find a 'groove' around a thick, vaguely metallic riff and use it to slow down bits in the middle, if only to add drama to the fast explosive parts. Joe Carducci probably could dissect exactly how the bass, guitar and drums come together to make 'rock' but it's clearly visceral, though thoughtful. And for every anomaly such as 'Under the Rug', a long track with slow, moody post-rock interludes, it's followed up by something aggressive and scorching. Yes, there's a ferocious Negative Approach cover ('Kiss Me Kill Me') but it also has a mandolin and kazoo breakdown in the middle. It's not quite schizophrenic but rather suggestive of a larger vision, of a young band working within hardcore's boundaries but already frustrated at its orthodoxy. The members all went on to a lot of interesting future bands (Conversions, Sleeper Cell, An Oxygen Auction, etc.) making it a shame that there's so little left to listen to from this early projects's existence. Without a lyrics sheet, we'll never know exactly what 'Civ Lied' is about - I assume it's about the Gorilla Biscuits frontman but maybe about the Sid Meier computer game - and 'Why Do You Insist I Need College To Validate My Life, Fucker?' is a truly great title, and the song is little more than that shouted once.

No comments:

Post a Comment