Maybe it's personal intolerance, but this whole 80s bandwagon is beginning to really f--k me off. The incessant repetition of the latest in a long line of "we always had a Gang Of Four element to our music" indie chancers, means that, recently, reviewing has become a real chore. For years the popular press declared the 80s to be the decade that taste forgot, then, at the dawn of the new century, in an audacious volte-face, the media began foisting on us a seemingly endless procession of drearily over-earnest bands content to ape them to death. And while you could, perhaps, level the same criticism at Boston's The Beatings, the band was churning out their skewed nu-wave long before there was a bandwagon to jump. It'd be churlish to tar them with the same distasteful brush.
Holding On To Hand Grenades, the long awaited follow up to 2002's Italiano, is both unpretentious and open about its reference points. Produced by underground stalwart Paul Q Kolderie, perhaps best known for recording the likes of much-missed Mark Sandman outfit Morphine, the album owes a debt to the likes of Pixies but perhaps more so to the heady post-rock of Mission Of Burma. You want proof? Check the scuzzy strep-throat riot of "Feel Good Ending", apparently teetering on the brink of falling apart as the drummer makes a break for it. Or catchy slam-dancing opening belter, "A Responsible Person". At their most melodic there's an edge of former noiseniks Idlewild's mid-Atlantic early-R.E.M. delivery but, when the band are in full flow there's little room for such tenderness. Occasional respite from all the heavy angst comes, usually, like on hook-laden slowie "Scorched Earth Policy", when bassist Erin Dalbec, with an obvious nod to Kim Deal, steps into the vocal breach. Mostly, though, Holding On To Hand Grenades is enjoyably up-tempo, if not upbeat.
With Holding On To Hand Grenades, The Beatings have not only harnessed the power and vitriol present in the best of the alternative scene but refused to dilute their awkward, but frequently brilliant, vision. If there's any justice, this album will see The Beatings blow up. Just stand well back.
Buy Holding On To Hand Grenades from Midriff Records.
Check out more of Greg's reviews at Swing Batter Batter!