On The Outside (2006, Freedom School)
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.