Ugly On The Outside (2006, Freedom School)
After watching a brain bending, face-melting live set from Hunchback, I was caught off guard by this deceptive debut full length. A band that surprises you is refreshing indeed! “feeling betterdotcom” gently opens the door with a casual pop melody, featuring lead vox from drummer Miranda Hunchback. “Respect For The Dead” pulls you back like a slingshot, as the tension escalates with more voices (this time from the guys) and Craig Hunchback’s creeping-up-behind-you synth tones. Then the slingshot releases and you shoot out across the deadly waters, riding the as-strange-as-it-sounds horror surf rock sub-genre until you splash into the icy depths of screams and noise. Mike Hunchback can fire it up on the axe and growl it up on the mic, so after listening to the grotesquely catchy “The Ballad Of Lon Chaney”, careening through the rippin’ instrumental “Andy Milligan’s America”, and convulsing to the classic Amphetamine Reptile-esque “Black Sunday” we need an intermission! Thankfully it comes in the form of “Something Wicked…”, another Miranda-led tune, whose dainty/eerie vox restrains the noise for as long as possible, but ultimately succumbs to bursts of guitar crunch. More scary surf rock on “Ride The Dying” leads us to the insightful and intriguing “The Last Man On Earth”. While the song has a clear intention, I think it’s very odd that the song seems to be a lighter, sing-along tune. I mean, imagine a whole group of people singing in unison, “I don’t want to be the last man on Earth!” Thought provoking! Closing out the disc is a cover of Killdozer’s (note to self: mention Killdozer as a band influence) “A Mother Has A Hard Road” and a live version of “Come Into My Parlor” which not only proves the band has superior playing chops, it also combines all Hunchback elements – surf, horror movies, screaming – into one big manifesto of crazy rock’n’roll. I guess I didn’t realize it until sifting through track-by-track, but Ugly On The Outside truly is right up there with the best releases of 2006.
-Mark Hughson 4/3/06