Out Hud’s debut full-length, 2002’s S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D., was an emphatic slap in the face to languid post-rock posturing. The album’s six instrumental tracks injected much-needed humor and soul into the moribund rock-reinvention climate, offering ecstatic dance beats and propulsive funk alongside forward-thinking compositions. D.A.D. moved the body as well as the mind, putting to rest the notion that intricate, interesting music is incompatible with hedonistic grooves. On the follow-up, Let Us Never Speak of It Again, Out Hud (which includes Nic Offer, Tyler Pope and Justin Vandervolgin of !!!) continues its populist bent. The band throws in vocals for the first time and drifts even further into the dance side of dance-punk.
Phyllis Forbes and Molly Schnick’s vocal contributions are the most noticeable difference between Let Us Never and Out Hud’s previous work. Instead of carrying the songs they sing on, Forbes and Schnick ably serve them. The driving beats and instrumentation remain the album’s focal point. At times, the vocals recall frequent Matthew Herbert collaborator Dani Siciliano, especially when they’re digitally treated. On “It’s For You,” the pair successfully translates the rapture and anticipation of the pulsating music.
Inspired by countless beat-oriented rock groups of years past, Out Hud never lets up throughout the album’s ten compositions. Bass, programmed drums and keyboard serve as the foundation, with less emphasis on Schnick’s cello. When it does appear, however, it provides a plaintive and graceful contrast to the frantic rhythms. Let Us Never conveys the impression of movement from start to finish. The songs evolve organically as the band adds new layers and wrinkles, constantly shifting the sound while maintaining the groove. Characteristic of the entire work, the forceful percussion of “The Song So Good They Named It Thrice” is gradually joined by guitar, keyboards and eventually cello, each addition and mutation smoothly flowing into the next.
Let Us Never is suitable both for headphones and for the dance floor. The intelligently constructed tracks, which hint at post-punk and IDM, reward close listening, and the full-bore beats encourage anything but passive listening. Even the lengthy and memorably titled instrumental, “Dear Mr. Bush, There Are Over 100 Words For Shit And Only 1 For Music. Fuck You, Out Hud,” preserves interest over its eleven-plus minutes (although its political message is as sketchy as the average Godspeed You Black Emperor! epic). The members of Out Hud may know their music history, but they don’t let academics get in the way of a good time.