Hood "The Negatives..." (Domino, single): Boyracer "Absence Makes The Heart Grow Harder" (Foxyboy)
It's hard to know whether, when Boyracer and Hood were sifting their beguiling cauldron of scratchy lo-finess in Wetherby circa 1990, either band would have foreseen that they'd still be producing fondly-received material 15 years later. I'm certainly not convinced that, picking up their flexis or cassettes back then, I'd have expected to welcome 2005-vintage product from them. Nor that Hood would have evolved into a band who knocked off towering and tumultuous sonic visions as if it were the most natural thing in the world, while Boyracer would be even faster and even more committedly *punk* than they were back in the day (and have long-relocated from Yorkshire to a happy non-retirement on the other side of the Atlantic). Yet whilst their styles now could hardly be more contrasting - this Boyracer "EP" knocks 12 tracks into 22 frolic-filled minutes of frenzy, whilst Hood's single, on the often underwhelming Domino, is probably their most accessible yet - neither have ever given up on the tics that always really made them special.
"The Negatives..." as a song I have raved about before (although I don't think I mentioned its uncanny similarity to that Nas tune, and I can't believe that nobody else has either!) so pride of place here must therefore go to the two B-sides, which pick up where the momentous "Outside Closer" LP left off and show just how much Hood have cemented their mastery. Hood's songs are so organically grown from each other, it's as if the Adams brothers now have a clear template, and each new tune is an attempt to meld their greatest, subtlest, most affecting work yet from all the branches and bracken and fronds that they have already laid down over past albums. "Squint in the First Light of Day", produced like the album sessions by the band with Choque Hussein, is the lusher of the two newies, dub-becalmed indie-glitch given a human heart by chiming guitars, looped vocals and basslines just as warm as those that infused "Rustic Houses, Forlorn Valleys". Really precious stuff. The other song, "The Sad Decline of Home" instead starts off in a jerky, dispassionate style that would not have been too far out of place on "Cabled Linear Traction" or "Silent 88", but as it marches on, it becomes another, ridiculously affecting, torch song - "they can't control your life, but they try, they can't teach us how to hate, but they try..." My. Hood still sculpt their own genre, then: always otherworldly, often fidgety, yet never too remote: exquisite soundtracks for freeze-frames of my Battersea Park sunsets, of low light over the estuary, of the starkness of the leafless trees in winter.
Boyracer, of course, don't do anything of the sort. "So he made you cry again / what a guy" is the first line, typically sardonic and emotionally direct, and "That Boy Yr With Is A Dick" is indeed the first song (a line from the Primitives' "Laughing Up My Sleeve", if I remember rightly), imploding utterly perfectly within 90 seconds. And so the pattern of feedback, heartbreak, and undisguisedly great tunes near-obliterated into a guitar noise that's all the sweeter for it, begins: "Static Flame", which follows, is possibly even better, whilst the title track hints at the past greatnesses of "He Gets Me So Hard", albeit as is their wont these days abridging itself and collapsing gorgeously into noise by that one and a half minute mark. And "Late 70s Feel" slows things down (well, by Boyracer standards), seeing Stewart's angst-filled voice beautifully pacified by Jen's backing coos. For a break, there is a slightly-acoustic run through of "Where To Place Yr Trust ?", one of the very best songs from last year's "Happenstance" set on Happy Birthday To Me. The only non-amazing track is "Foxyboy", which is really a half-song, a kitschy theme tune for Ara Hacopian's label, although even that redeems itself by aping the UK Subs' "Stranglehold" with its chorus melody. But as Boyracer roll on, with the urgency borne of real passion, they are still never less than necessary.
Viva Spofforth Hill.