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The Hentchmen – The Hentchmen

Dirty Water

The Hentchmen“… kind of record that gets played at the coolest party …where the keg ends up in the pool…” says the press release… I’ve seen that film, but truthfully, never been to a party with a keg, let alone a swimming pool. I do remember a particular glue-crazed house-wrecker where sofas were incinerated, windows smashed and roof squatted like a prison riot, complete with slate thrower. The last thing I recall – before I deemed it time to leave for my own safety – was a 7” leaving the hand of the local psychopath and rippling nearly a full inch past my teenage forehead; before it shattered into beautiful, but cut throat, shards and the ugly remainder sat like a black gargoyle grinning at our folly, embedded as it now was, halfway up a wall.

And that is where I find The Hentchmen. Formal introductions, glugged beers and awkward sideways glances at boys and girls with pointy shoes and flamin’ tattoos over: two slush puppy smooth, drum-heavy crowd pleasing nods to the Detroit rocker hall of fame in, it all gets a bit weird, broken; and a wonderfully better, dirty-protest of a record for it…

Sure it rocks like the blurb suggests it will and there is enough self-knowing brought about by experience to make it stand out from the crowd, even in the first two tracks which are straight enough and recall the drum and guitar onslaught that bands like Bordeaux’s Magnetix are métiers of. But then a subtle thinning down and spreading out occurs – almost as if to say “OK, when you done throwing yourself around, this is where we’re really at..” and the Farfisa starts to get heard above the din. Adding Devo‘s mischievousness or Pere Ubu‘s restlessness maybe meets The Mummies‘ devil-may-care, in places: “Claude’s Remains,” “Wild Wild Lover.” “Aladdin’s Castle” (protestingly upgraded from a cave) – a quaint image recalling some ’60’s playground-of-the-rich in its lounging arabesques – until the organ goes completely berserk. The maddeningly upbeat “Worry Converter, Accusatory” – ice cream vans, ice skating, on acid – the fun continues. Till “No Jukebox Hits” becomes the kind of track every jukebox should have, its melting vinyl fake finales squeezed improbably between early Flamin’ Groovies and Ornette Coleman.

And then it’s back to the press release to check some spellings, and I’m disagreeing slightly again: I don’t believe Garage’s “primary function is to rock.” I venture it’s to come from the garage. So, given the musical pedigree of their home town with its hot-rod history/burned out epicentre, I expect some weird and wonderful contraptions to wobble off the axle stands these days. The original mechanics of Pebbles and Nuggets were singular, fucked-up, unwitting missionaries of (somewhat) random sonic experimentation, not a movement of formulaic frat club members, prancing to recycled prep punk (although I admit, that sure is fun). This is a weird and ugly record (the back tyres too fat, the front too skinny, the steering rack made from at least two types of vehicles – if you like) and I hope the next one’s even weirder, cos’ it’s essential people like The Hentchmen inject new life into a form that (unless played with the no-no-better enthusiasm of say Black Time and The Phantom Pregnancies or infused with personality à la Messrs. Childish and White) in the wrong hands is thee most tedious music ever.

If I had checked the name on the half-destroyed single in the party wall, instead of running for my life, in some kind of very time warped way, I imagine it could have read ‘The Hentch…’

-Peter Bennett-

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