Whether anyone will own up to it or not, one of Lou Reed’s most significant contributions to music is his laying of the groundwork for widespread acceptability of singers who can’t — or won’t — actually sing. A few critics have blanketed Boston-based, eclectic soft rock trio Henry with near-ubiquitous comparisons to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground — in large part due to Henry vocalist Don Gould’s mostly monotone, sung/spoken-yet-emotive lyrical delivery. To my ears, that influence isn’t as glaring as perhaps the slow-seeping musical overspill of Reed’s many disciples: REM, The Pixies, The Breeders, Frank Black, and The Lemonheads, to name-drop just a few. It also seems worth a mention that The Velvet Underground is the primary band with whom critics once compared the Strokes; and the Strokes fucking suck. Not to say that Henry’s brief (8 songs) but lovely debut, Cyanide, doesn’t have its fair share of “Gosh, this sounds an awful lot like (insert Lou Reed song title here).” The point is, when it comes to rock criticism, there truly is no objective reality.
Cyanide has an intimate, Sunday morning music feel to it, with Gould’s minor chord guitar playing providing a comfortable bed for his intimate, engaging story songs. “Light Coming Through the Ceiling” temporarily kicks the album into a higher gear with its upbeat, old school punk texture similar to Spiral Scratch or Another Music in a Different Kitchen-era Buzzcocks, making it one of the album’s most appealing tracks. The band then slips back into a seductive, heroin-paced drone with “Old Seventeen.” In this way, Henry works an atmospheric “mood groove” angle along the line of what critic’s darling bands like Gomez do best. Bassist Tom Rasku and drummer Brian Toomey fill in all the spaces between with just the right rhythmic essence. Cyanide is a remarkable debut from a fairly young band, and worth a listen if you dig any of the bands mentioned here.