The members of Brooklyn's Hunters have repeatedly stated that their favorite part of being in a band is playing live shows. "The best part of a show is not knowing what's gonna happen," states singer/guitarist Isabel Almeida, and that sense of gleeful unpredictability carries over to the group's debut EP, Hands On Fire. With production help from former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, Hunters turn in a veritable battle cry of sludgy punk that sets them far apart from a crowded scene.
Clocking in at a tidy five songs and fourteen minutes, Hands On Fire shows Hunters putting their collective best foot forward to immediately grab your attention. Opener “Deadbeat” starts with a predictable garage plod, but then the real fun begins: ludicrously downtuned guitars steal the rhythmic spotlight before Almeida and fellow singer/guitarist Derek Wetson trade jagged yelps and even more jagged guitar licks. “I want it, I need it” is intoned over and over like a mantra. That religious-like fervor repeatedly pops up, and judging by their live shows’ hype, it’s a central reason why they’re blowing their peers right out of the water.
Bands that feature two vocalists almost always sound more immediate, and Hunters are no exception. There’s a real push-and-pull between Watson’s grungy growl and Almeida’s bark that mimics their bubblegum-meets-metal attitude. For every snarling riff, (like the intro to “Headache”) a sugary melody quickly follows. They borrow a few sonic tricks from their early ‘90s forbears, but the EP isn’t shooting for the arenas. It’s a nice mixture of basement grime and house party, free from the navel-gazing of a lot of lo-fi music. It’s intricate in places, like the multi-part “Noisy Bitch,” or “Deadbeat.” Elsewhere, on “Brat Mouth” Hunters plow through straightforward punk rock that nearly falls apart in a noisy midsection. But Almeida’s there to rein it back in with an urgent hook.
Hunters might value the sweaty club gig over the studio, but they come very close to replicating that unpredictability. And the greatest feat of a solid debut? It sounds fun as hell.