After three seen-inches and a split twelve-inch, Out Hud finally arrives with its highly anticipated debut, S.T.R.E.E.T.D.A.D.. The band, which shares three members with !!! (Tyler Pope, Justin Vandervolgen and Nic Offer), proves it is not to be written off as a mere side project. These six songs are fully realized, often-beautiful mood pieces that reveal more with every listen. Plus, the presence of two female members (Molly Schnick and Phyllis Forbes) sets the band apart from the testosterone injection of !!!.
Out Hud has built a reputation as one of the most thrilling live acts around, and I wondered if that would translate to a studio recording. The band’s current live set usually starts off mellow, gradually building in intensity, so that by the end the entire band, as well as most of the hipster crowd, is dancing its collective ass off to the funky beats and fat vintage synths. Although Vandervolgen’s beats and sound effects drive the live show, the instrumental S.T.R.E.E.T.D.A.D. showcases the musicianship of each of the five members. They’ve toned down the dub element that permeated their earlier recordings, leaving in its place epic songs that flow effortlessly, sounding not unlike Renegade Soundwave if it had written a film score on an acid trip.
Opener “Story of the Whole Thing” contains all the elements that makes Out Hud’s sound so distinct. Noise effects give way to a synthetic beat as a heavily reverbed guitar gracefully strums away. Soon, a cello, a staple of the band’s sound from the beginning, creates a warm, elegant atmosphere, which is immediately thwarted by a funky synth interlude that would have FischerSpooner running back to the drawing board. The album’s best track is “The L Train Is a Swell Train and I Don’t Want to Hear You Indies Complain,” a bizarre rediscovery of acid house that changes directions so often that by the end you need to hear it again just to make sense of it. Upon repeated listens, it’s clear that in the vein of mid-’80s New Order, the band seamlessly combines traditional rock instruments with electronics.
Despite having amazingly stupid song titles that sound like inside jokes (“Hair Dude, You’re Stepping on My Mystique”), S.T.R.E.E.T.D.A.D. stands as more than just a complement to the band’s live show. It’s a brilliant album that can be enjoyed as pleasant background music or as the backdrop of a subversive dance party.