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Hymns - Brother/Sister Review

by Patrick Muldowney

Southern Rock must be the easiest genre of music to play, or there is an overabundance of quality musicians who find this genre appealing. Upon first listen, I tried to convince myself that the elevator was way too full of similar sounding bands, and Hymns simply could not get on. Upon additional listens, the truth is the elevator either needs to build an addition, or some other band will have to step off. Brother/Sister is a great album with a multitude of memorable songs.

Beginning with "Magazines", Brother/Sister wreaks of Tom Petty. Jangly 3-chord pop, accented with slide guitar and a rhythm section which intuitively lays back and builds up, provides a hit-making structure. It doesn't hurt that Brian Harding actually has better range than Petty, and is nearly as effective at using simple lyrics without becoming idiotic and clichι.

While noting similarities to The Strokes, Kings of Leon, and, quite often, St. Johnny, among many other American artists, during the first seven tracks, "Stop Talking" is the first song that truly stands out from the norm on Brother/Sister. Opening simple notes on the Wurlitzer, groovy (hip hop style) percussion kicks in after a few bars. Half-time drums then greet Pettyesque vocals, "It's alright, it's okay, you can leave, you can stay." The song has all the traditional elements of great rock: palm-muted chords, instruments falling out and emerging at the perfect time, piano, and a repetitious chorus. It even has some bongos thrown in there (like Blue Oyster Cult throwing in the cow bell).

"Starboat" is another standout. This is impressive being that it is the longest song on the album, and a ballad. Generally, with a southern pop band like Hymns, you neither want their stories nor their lengthiness, but the second to last track on Brother/Sister is up there with Guided By Voices in quality and appeal. An acoustic guitar introduces a story about power, and the madness of feeble leaders, as Harding tells the youngster, "When you are twenty-one/ You will see it's not much fun/ To be around these people." Later he assures his apprentice that he'll be, "The one they hate to love and love to hate." Guided by electric guitars that couldn't sound better unless they were delivered by Gilliard and Pollard themselves, "Starboat" is an extraordinary piece of writing.

Brother/Sister is one of the most surprising albums this year. Countered by many bands that have pushed back release dates, tons of new cookie-cutter bands, and many other bands with substandard efforts, this may be the gem no one expected.

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Hymns - Brother/Sister

Label:Rock Ridge Music

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