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Friday, July 8, 2011

Hip To Death's debut isn't easy to meet halfway

Hip to Death’s first proper CD, Punk Will Never Die But You Will (random Mogwai reference intended), buries spooky punk inclinations under layers of loops and vertiginous currents of noise. Had this album been recorded in Los Angeles circa 1979 it would be revered by the Killed By Death contingency as a creepy cousin to the Bags, the Weirdos, or Chicago proto-punk savants Mentally Ill, albeit it less spastic. But it wasn’t, so it's bound to fly under the radar as the group’s dark and defiantly outsider leer doesn’t have many close neighbors in 2011 Atlanta. But at the trio’s blackened heart of hearts, it appears to be OK with that, and even thrives on it as pure, unadulterated contempt drives songs like “Black Mirror” and “Washed Out.” Unsettling samples of disembodied voices that constrict around the clap of thunder, fuzz and gloomy pop structures are splattered all over the CD.

If you’re familiar with Hip to Death’s previous demo, Live in a Dive at the 529 Club, singer/guitarist John Breedlove’s hostile snarl doesn’t come off so much like he’s throwing rocks with his words anymore in “Skate Morals.” The tantrums have been tempered, and when weighed against wife/bassist Kasey Breedlove’s slow, gothic swoon in “White Sands,” the aural extremities are laid bare. The album’s strengths lie in the harsh and spiraling collage of noises that serves as both the backbone and connective tissue. Its major flaw is its inability to break free from the form that’s established within the first 30 seconds after pressing play. But there are compelling hooks hiding in the din, waiting to be realized. The album is bleak, jagged, and honest to the point of surpassing comfort levels. As such, PWNDBYW is not an album that’s easy to meet halfway, but if you’re really feeling sinister, Hip to Death has your number.

Hip to death plays the Drunken Unicorn tonight with Swank Sinatra, Mind Powers and Monitors. $5. 9 p.m. 736 Ponce de Leon Place.

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