Hard Left wants every-damn-one to get hyped for their debut album. I bought that hype. I was super excited to hear music played by former members of Black Tambourine, Boyracer, and Lunchbox. The mass listening public has never heard Mike Schulman, aka Papa Slumber, sing. Hard Left says they're Oi and Mod and the album cover looks like a proper Ken Loach film. What's not to theoretically love here?
Well, after finally taking We Are Hard Left in, the best I can type is: Mike's voice doesn't disappoint. He sounds like Jason Statham with black lung. It's pretty damn glorious. The worst I can type is: This is a pretty forgettable album. The music's fine; everything is tight and respectable, especially the rhythm section. I personally don't care for (what sounds to be) polished production of a punk rock record. We Are Hard Left sounds as hi-fi as Green Day's output from Nimrod onward.
Of the fourteen tracks, four are not much more than the band continuously singing "We are Hard Left!" These tracks and vocal exercises are in addition to the myriad of instances in which the very same refrain is repeated during those tracks with actual song structure. I'd forgive one such track, but four, for me, is gratuitous.
I think I get what they're trying to accomplish here; "We are Hard Left!" is supposed to be a powerful rally cry wherein the "We" is not just the band, but everyone. That's all fine, but in the context of an album, one song alone could establish that. It's not as if listeners will only listen once. Most people will listen multiple times and if even one song contains the "rally cry", the message will be heard as many if not more times than if anyone listened just once to this album and heard it only ten times.
I'm not trying to teach Hard Left any Hard Lessons. I know plenty of people will love this album mostly for what it represents; A Call To Arms, by Our Elders, no less. It's nothing new but reminders are always a blessing. I only wish they could figure out a way to aurally teach us Hard Left-ers the new secret handshake.
The Verdict: 2 Bedpans
Will Sprott is (or was) San Jose's own M. Ward. I can't state with any authority whether the sort of music Will produces existed before in San Jose or if anyone else has chosen to follow his sleepy-yet-confident footsteps since he first appeared as the front man for our once-beloved Mumlers. I only know that my dumb ears never heard a San Jose musician before or since Will Sprott.
His voice may be an amalgamation of many older folksy dudes of whom I'm not familiar, so, to me, he sounds slightly like Matt Ward; except that he rarely goes for the airy effect. His voice is mostly grounded and measured, pronouncing every syllable clearly. The true beauty of Will's vocals is in the pace with which he sings. Leisure is enjoyable to those who've had their fill of rushing and the messy confusion that often follows. Will's pacing is so sure-footed, I trust him to lead me any damn where. I have a feeling he would be content to quietly stand his ground in the face of a tornado. The tornado would respect Will's stubborn stance and be sure to avoid the modest space he's claimed. 'Open Eyeball' pretty much spells it out: "The sky is swarming with eagles and vultures, but we're happy here in the cracks of the culture. Everyone is searching for a place in the sun, but we like it in the shade."
Since I'd like to become a Will Sprott disciple, I believe him when he sings, "Good times are here again. Broken hearts are on the mend." ('Crooked Melody'). Vortex Numbers is a fine companion for weary ears, and, more importantly, minds. Listeners, take heart that Will has everything in order. Will's refrain, "Everybody has a job. I'm going to do my job." ('Psychic Lady') should set us all at ease. All hail, Will Sprott!
The Verdict: 3 Bedpans