It Hugs Back Inside Your Guitar

[4AD; 2009]

The reason people delve deeper into music, the reason people become interested in independent ethos and sounds, is because they want to hear something different, right? Isn’t it because they find mainstream culture to be transparent and monotonous? Aren’t these things true? They are? Alright, good. Then someone needs to explain to me the existence of a band like It Hugs Back.

Perhaps you’ll come across this band at some point. You may be initially drawn in by hazy blocks of chords on their trusty synth, or the big chunky chords that cover the expanse of your speakers. They’ll fool you. They fooled me when I heard Inside Your Guitar’s opener “Q.” It was understated, it was whispery, it was a little droney, and it was pop music. The further you get into this album, though, the more you realize that this 11-song LP actually only has three songs.

“Q” and “Soon” are the same song. This song has It Hugs Back’s keen pop sensibility, tinged with a melancholy and slow static as backdrop. This song is actually somewhat pleasing, albeit boring when heard twice on the same album.

“Work Day,” “Don’t Know,” “Back Down,” “Look Out,” “Now + Again,” and “Unaware” are all the same song, and the meat and potatoes of the album. Complete with tambourines, hi-hat eighth notes, bright and shining guitar riffs, and a smile, this song is where you’ll begin to question why you started gaining interest in music in the first place. Upbeat, innocuous, peppy, and safe, this song was created six times because it would sound so good in a commercial! That’s four different companies with the It Hugs Back stamp of approval. Hey, It Hugs Back is an indie band! They are indie! When they were kids, living in the UK, they listened to a massive number of Britpop singles, and it totally influenced the way their band sounds. Oh, and if you couldn’t already tell, their frontman is really cryptic and hip. That’s why he whispers in all of his songs. That’s why he has no dynamic or emotional range in his voice whatsoever. That’s why all of the lyrics in all of the songs sound like they apply perfectly to whatever situation you're going through! Not because they’re trying to move units, no, but because they’re artists, and know all human nuance to such an exact degree that they can express it brilliantly through the art of Pop Song.

“Forgotten Song” and “Remember” are the same song. Yikes. This is the cringe-inducing slow number. Stripped of originality and verve, this song is for when the lights dim and you're driving home from whatever awesome thing you did that night. The 6/8 time signature and glockenspiel flutters break “Remember” from the rest of the pack only slightly, and very little is gained from listening to this song too many times.

Album closer “Rehearsal” is an amalgam of all three variations of It Hugs Back's songs, and adds nothing to an already very flawed long-player. In a world where the business side of music has permeated all its other aspects, if not eradicated them entirely, this album will destroy a solid fraction of whatever idealism you may have left. Its complete lack of anything unique just reeks of someone in the background, someone with a suit and a cigar, shaking hands with these fellows and telling them they’re “gonna blow up.” This album, released on 4AD, actually sounds like what an A&R rep thinks of when he hears the word “indie.”

1. Q
2. Work Day
3. Don’t Know
4. Forgotten Song
5. Soon
6. Back Down
7. Unaware
8. Remember
9. Now + Again
10. Look Out
11. Rehearsal

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