Music Reviews

Howard Hello

Howard Hello

Temporary Residence

According to the press release, Howard Hello is the band that centers its focus on “the drifting paths of Thibideau’s [Kenseth Thibideau, apparent lead ego-maniac] fertile mind.” I don’t know if “fertile” is the best word.

In the past five years, the truly missed, guitar-playing, tape-collage-ing John Fahey had something of a career revitalization. Due largely to Fahey’s Womblife and City Of Refuge, two of the most adventurous and exciting albums of his career, coupled with reissues of a considerable portion of his early work, and partly due to a considerable amount of praise from many musicians, most oft-cited, of course, being Jim O’Rourke.

Imagine Fahey naming one of his songs “Prozac,” or thinking he was clever for ending one of his albums with a song called “Hello.” Imagine Fahey’s first exposure to Steve Reich being through the extensively sampled “Electric Counterpoint” in The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, or through a profound appreciation for Pat Metheny. Howard Hello would love for you to think that Fahey was an influence, I mean, they use a finger-picked acoustic guitar on several tracks, it doesn’t get any more American Primitive than that. One track is even named “America,” probably a totally unconscious nod to Fahey’s 1971 album of the same name, as the track sounds a lot more like a bad “Electric Counterpoint” by their other cited “influence,” Steve Reich. It has an awful vocal track thanks to Thibideau employee Marty Anderson that is essentially a rankling whine, sounding like a post-coital Mercury Rev. Oh, and the moronic lyrical mantra, “I Couldn’t Say No.” You should’ve.

The rest of the vocals on the album are more tactful, definitely used sparingly, the album is largely instrumental. Most of the album avoids being offensively awful, the ambitions are clear, the influences are obvious, itÃs very hard to figure out what the members of Howard Hello are actually bringing to the equation, there is no sense of individual vision here. Yet, there are nice drones and standard-issue computer farting sounds, so you’ll probably be able to order it from “And just like Thibideau’s previous endeavors, you can’t help but get sucked in and just trust that you’ll be pulled out safe and sound,” the press release says. Just like so much other music today that tries to integrate popular and electronic musical idioms, there is an overriding sense of safety, incapable of providing the challenge in Fennesz or Fahey.

Besides that general mediocrity, Howard Hello seems to not particularly care about the music they’re making. This is an album about hipness, about showing college radio that people can use laptops and have an emotional side even if The Breeders are still releasing albums.

Temporaary Residence:

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