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Music Review: Hopewell – Good Good Desperation

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Wearing their Jane’s Addiction and Flaming Lips influences on their sleeves, Hopewell springs into action with the winding opus that is Good Good Desperation. With plenty of peripatetic psych-rock stuff to please every peyote-using hippie out there, this New York City outfit’s latest intrepidly keeps the conception of the “full album” alive with this pleasing set of ten songs.

Founded by Jason Russo, who played with Mercury Rev on tour, Hopewell meshes the epic psychedlica of Rev and Flaming Lips with the sound of acts like Dungen and Dead Meadow. The band has an extensive touring history, opening for My Bloody Valentine on their recent reunion tour and knocking out audiences at the Reading and Leeds festivals.

Good Good Desperation sometimes runs the risk of getting ahead of itself and overusing the electronic music grab bag, but Russo and Co. pull back on the reigns at all the right moments. A chunk of guitar or an inspired drum fill saves a few tunes from running off the rails and builds towards a thick progressive rock edge.

The big airy hospitable jam of “Preamble Pt. 2” proves that Hopewell can handle resourceful vocal harmonies, outlining the voices with effects and never overcrowding the mix. It is this subtlety that makes the record most interesting. When the effects sink for a dash of guitar, everything seems to fit naturally.

The problem with a lot of space/prog rock is that the musicians can get a little carried away. While open-ended jams can be charming for a live audience on mind-altering drugs, they’re usually quite bland on record. Thankfully Hopewell has stuck with a set-up that fits snugly between psych pop and space rock, playing loose and keeping arrangements artistically simple.

“Island” demonstrates this meshing of the best of both worlds, providing a brilliant Jane’s Addiction-inspired bit only to let it all hang out with a smooth breakdown.

Hopewell’s exploration of sound is stimulating, with the car horn intro to “10,000 Black Masses Pt. 1” and the systematic distorted hymn of “Seen the Light” proving clear examples of imagination without limits. Thanks to squealing, bracing guitar work and appropriate song structures, there’s never a dull moment.

Good Good Desperation is an album of fine lines and subtleties, amazingly enough. There are large, proggy moments to be sure, but Hopewell’s affinity for the delicate, petite moments is equally important and commendable. Russo’s band has created a “full album,” to be sure, and continues to find joy and true musical ecstasy in the smallest of details.

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