It Hugs Back - Laughing Party

Breathy and lighter than air, with a feel of optimism.

Label: Safe And Sound

Rating: 6

With a band name like It Hugs Back, you expect some coddling, your nan to pop out of the woodwork to bring you a cup of cocoa when you queue an album of theirs on the turntable. So it’s not a surprise that most of the tracks of the Kent band’s second album ‘Laughing Party’ attempt to be breathy and lighter than air, with a feel of optimism. The album was written in leader Matthew Simms’ downtime while he was on tour as art rock band Wire’s touring guitarist.

It is, however, a surprise when first song ‘The Big E’ first plays. It’s over 15 minutes. Like ‘Sun God’, the last track on Cut Copy’s ‘Zonoscope’, it’s a bit self-indulgent, that. The lyrics take a backseat here – and indeed much of the whole album – to the sonic blurriness created by fuzzed out guitar and lots of effects (too many effects) going on at once. In ‘The Big E’, there’s a good but repetitive guitar hook after the 8 and a half minute point, and there are peaks and troughs to their madness. The problem with sticking a long track first is that people might get bored with it and move on to something else, which might very well happen with folks’ first airings of this.

Which would be too bad, as ‘Half American’ and ‘Massachusetts’ , two taster tracks they’ve released on Soundcloud, are far better representatives of ‘Laughing Party’. Again, let’s go back to the band name. It Hugs Back. You were never going to get an aggressive balls to the wall record from a band with a name like that. ‘Massachusetts’ would be a fine substitute for Simon and Garfunkel, if only it didn’t have that feedback. The spry ‘Half American’ has finely reigned in guitars and Dreamy harmonies ala the Pains of Being Pains Of Pure At Heart, minus a female voice. It’s absolutely gorgeous; you could get lost in the beauty of its sonic forest. Contrast this to ‘All In One Day’, which could have come out similarly, except the band chose to fuzz out the guitars more in this one. (Too bad.)

There are other several gems in here. ‘Happy’ embraces an engaging rhythm and features nice guitar riffs that it sounds so much like it could have wound up on the debut album from Cashier No. 9. ‘No One Should Know’ is essentially Bombay Bicycle Club with echoey vocals, squealing guitars and a mellow, too long (1-minute long) second act: think Jack Steadman gone psychedelic. Speaking of psychedelic, get a whiff of the instrumental ‘Strange Noise’, and you might feel like you’ve landed accidentally in a hippie’s multi-coloured ganja den.

However, the rest of ‘Laughing Party’ is no laughing matter. ‘Grown Old’ and ‘Melting’ are too languid for their own good. And although there are some fine moments in It Hug Back’s latest album, it’s held back by too many songs on the album with guitars industrially wheezing over the words. ‘Sit Tight’, ‘Melting’, ‘Never Get Tired’ and ‘All In One Day’ all make you imagine the band having a really grand time recording this, but you’d have a hard time figuring out where these songs are going. And will people care long enough to find out? It’s a bit like sitting inside a snow globe that’s just been shaken: for a few moments there is chaos and wonderment, but in the end, things go back to the way they always were.