October 18, 2014

Review: The Hush Now | Sparkle Drive

Lush, intricately layered and introspective, the latest LP from Boston dream-pop veterans The Hush Now is certainly its most finely crafted and perhaps even its most beautiful. It's often an understated collection, to be sure, and it comes from a rarified place for bands, as it is driven by something beyond a youthful hunger, and most bands don't stick around long enough to see what is beyond hunger in their creative wellsprings. But then, The Hush Now don't hold themselves out to be young and hungry, and we don't think the guys will mind us saying so. Instead, Sparkle Drive evidences, well, drive. It presents a band driven by the pursuit of an aesthetic ideal of guitar-pop. The fact that an aesthetic ideal can likely never be achieved, much less agreed upon, makes the pursuit even bolder, almost archetypal, almost quixotic. And -- as fans familiar with the band's ludicrously troubled history know -- such an endeavor is totally The Hush Now. Turn Sparkle Drive up very loud, maybe even don some headphones, and you will hear that even destination-less pursuit can sound absolutely magical.

As did Slowdive with its slowly spinning swan song Pygmalion, The Hush Now, which was launched by guitarist Noel Kelly in the middle of the last decade, confidently banks on the new record's slow dazzle. It's a bit bold, electing to not lead fans by the hand with compact, easy hooks and pre-chewed ideas. Which is not to say that Sparkle Drive, the band's fourth long-player, lacks an exquisite melodic sense or is filled with over-academic or atonal racket -- far from it. Instead, the set largely revels in a mid-tempo mellowness, the band's dearly-held affinity for '70s AM gold meshing perfectly with its love of shoegaze. The first single from the set is lead guitarist Adam Quane's jittery rumination "Arthur Come On, Really You Can't Be Serious," which is an odd choice for a single, but then again Sparkle Drive is sort of an odd record. Tucked away at track seven is the absolute gem "Sorry Sugar Well...," which delivers a classic The Hush Now indie pop song, but with a twist: a delightful -- and occasionally searing -- baritone saxophone lead throughout. There are shuddering moments of greatness on the record, like the triumphant chorus of "Spyglass," sung by bassist Pat MacDonald, or the absolutely smouldering climax of the Adam Quane-sung closer "Eleanor," where tremeloed guitars and gently chanted vocals roil and churn in a manner just shy of violent -- proof that, when it's in the mood, The Hush Now is Boston's preeminent shoegaze act (of course, the band is not so 'gazey that someone shouldn't have commissioned an André Obin dance remix of album opener "Panda"). The album touts a perfect epilogue in the form of a secret track, drummer Barry Marino's incredibly poignant, 80-second solo turn "I'm In A Band." The tune dates back to 2011, when Marino released it as a solo track, and the tune is no less affecting three years later, particularly its final plea: "I am asking, let me have some more time please."

Sparkle Drive is persistently rich and engaging, a testament to the brilliant songcraft and performance chops on display here. And with it The Hush Now has not only fully committed to being a four-headed songwriting hydra, but to deep-dive explorations of mood and sound, having conquered the more mechanical and mundane aspects of being a rock band. The Hush Now self-releases Sparkle Drive Sept. 23, and the record is being fĂȘted with a dynamite release show tomorrow night in Somerville, Mass. at the Davis Square Theater. The evening includes sets by Boston indie pop giants Slowdim and Emerald Comets, a Guillermo Sexo side project led by the inimitable Reuben Bettsak. Price of admission includes a copy of Sparkle Drive on CD, and proceeds from the event are being donated to a multiple sclerosis charity. Full details are right here; while you are digesting those, stream all of Sparkle Drive via the Bandcamp embed below.

The Hush Now: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds | Soundcloud

Previous Coverage:
Review: The Hush Now | Memos
The Hush Now Play The Pill | Great Scott, Boston | 12 August
Be Prepared: The Hush Now | Memos | 27 Sept.
Catching Up With Depeche Clicky: Hush Now Piece In The Boston Phoenix
The Hush Now Prep Memos, Remastered Constellations Due June 14
That Was The Show That Was: The Hush Now | Great Scott | 2 August
That Was The Show That Was: The Hush Now | Great Scott | 6 March
Review: The Hush Now| Constellations
YouTube Rodeo: The Hush Now's "Constellations"
Today's Hotness: The Hush Now
Back To Now: The Hush Now Interview With Noel Kelly
In The Studio With... The Hush Now
Review: The Hush Now | The Hush Now

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