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Posted on May 4th, 2010 (10:02 am) by Peter Schauf

When I was on the eighth grade junior varsity football team, I had a coach that, no matter how badly we were doing, insisted we just needed to play with a little more heart. Up until now, I just thought he was a remarkably unhelpful leader, but now that I’ve listened to some Battlehooch, I’m beginning to understand what he meant. Battlehooch's homemade debut, Piecechow, was about 30 percent talent – the rest is all heart. Somewhere between “Fishmilk” and “Fishmilkery,” I suddenly knew what it means to give 110 percent. There’s nothing exceptionally inventive about their music, but it’s so much fun that it really doesn’t matter.

With the kind of energy these guys exhibit, I wouldn’t be surprised if Piecechow was laid down in one take. This year’s self-titled full length isn’t going to do much to change my perception of San Francisco being one of the freakiest cities in the country, but it should certainly alter one’s perception of Battlehooch. This album feels much more rehearsed without severing all of the crazy spastic energy that makes the act worthwhile. Sure, they aren't the first band to make a dancey, spazzy-rock, art punk album (Need New Body, !!!, Feral Children, MGMT, The Unicorns, The Rapture, Bloc Party, to name a few) but most fizzle out pretty quickly after their initial success. Battlehooch displays a rare case of rapid productivity working in their favor. When you’re making a fire and you get a spark, it’s usually best to protect it from the wind and rain, and feed it slowly until it develops into a flame. Then again, sometimes you’ve just got to blow on those embers until you faint.

Unlike a fledgling fire, this album is remarkably consistent. In a lot of ways, Battlehooch’s biggest accomplishment on the album is leaving well enough alone. I have little doubt that stretching the album to a more conventional 11 or 12 tracks would entail the use of filler material. Behold the glory of self-production. The album doesn’t have any stand-outs, but from the salaciously bawdy “Human Ram” to the carousing chantey-inspired “Red Tide,” there aren’t many low points, either. “Somersaults” challenges the talent-to-heart ratio with breathtaking new heights of musicality. The relentless minstrel-ization of San Fran street corners has clearly ratcheted up the skill level of this new-school jam band, and you can catch flashes of revamped 60s drug rock in the same breath as ultra-modern Man Man-minded experimentation. But to say that Battlehooch marches to a different beat is an understatement, and frankly, a more hackneyed statement than they deserve.

Even in the recorded format, these guys really know how to put on a show. It’s a rare treat these days to find a band this earnestly “indie.” Most of the time the term “indie” carries about as much weight as the increasingly pejorative “hipster.” The terms aren’t meaningless, quite the contrary in fact. These types of terms have too many meanings to too many people. But then you come across some fabulously mustachioed diamonds-in-the-rough like Battlehooch and it reminds you exactly what it is you like about “indie” music. Battlehooch has made me question the qualifications of those sacred bands in the V.I.P. section of my heart. Street cred is not just for rappers anymore.

Track List:
1. Only Baby Sharks
2. Human Ram
3. Somersaults
4. Ringtone
5. Caliphate
6. Red Tide
7. Battlehooch
8. Honest

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Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

74 / 100
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