The Hound of Love is the synth-pop side project of Andrew Bassett from Mean Jeans, aka Jeans Wilder. While Mean Jeans are known primarily for their pop-punk, The Hound of Love’s first release Careful Houndy demonstrates the wanton wackiness of Mean Jeans spread out across a new genre.
For the most part, Careful Houndy explores the various sub-genres of '80s synth pop. Album opener “Action Sequence” balances the bopping dance cadence of an '80s club along with the darker undercurrents of the then-rising goth scene, creating an instrumental that could have fit on the more threatening Flock of Seagulls tracks. On “ParabolsebalouieGOAL” the dystopian, cold sounds of Tubeway Army are explored across a buzzing instrumental that could have fit in Blade Runner.
But, while the album is about half instrumentals, the album really takes off with the vocal cuts, each of which exhibit the anything goes mentality of the earliest punk rock. “If Not For You” is an absolutely perfect slice of synth-pop, showing that no matter the exterior trappings, teenage love songs remain indelible. Likewise, “Ditdit Dutdut” stretches out the bride from an old love song into a computerized jam that borrows from Chic and Konrad Plank. The collision is a new mix that highlights both the high points of those styles as well as the interesting meeting of them. The collision is random and shows how sometimes, things completely at odds mix together to make music that is fresh and timeless.
The willingness to get weird without too much thought or preparation carries over onto the band’s cover of Lyle Lovett’s “Workin’ Too Hard.” The song itself might not exactly be in the annals of music history, but because this album is so prone to trying out anything, the song feels like a sudden urge executed, and gives the whole album a refreshingly boundless concept.
While the vocal cuts here are dynamite, the instrumentals are daring pieces as well. Still, while the instrumentals hold interest, because the vocal cuts are so good, at times the instrumentals seem to get in the way of the vocal cuts. Likewise, songs like “Medley 1” are sonically interesting, but at times edge a little too close to “Nintendo Music.” Some of the instrumentals such as “The Ocean Floor” are dynamite dark submersions into musical texture and would be a shame to cut. But meanwhile, some of these instrumentals feel as though lyrics could easily be dropped on top with just a few more hours of thought.
Careful Houndy isn’t entirely perfect, but contains bouts of perfect moments. When it’s not perfect, it’s always interesting. Rarely is an album both accessible and challenging, yet Careful Houndy takes hold of both those concepts with ease. The album is exactly what punk is all about—trying out strange and fleeting ideas before they escape and seeing what happens. This is one of the most refreshing, interesting, and daring releases of the year—and it is an easy listen. Marvelous.