Few bands have been more universally loved than the Hippos. A story I've always enjoyed relating about the band is the following:
Sometime in the late nineties, I was kicking around on an old version of WarpedTour.com in their message board section. There was a forum dedicated strictly to people suggesting bands for the tour. Each post consisted of something like "I think ____ should be on the tour" followed by a hundred posts saying "No way! ____ sucks!" or something to that effect. The only change came when someone posted "I think the Hippos should be on Warped Tour, the rock!" This post was followed by dozens of others in agreement. Not a soul on the message board had a bad thing to say about these skankers-gone-new-wavers. It truly shows the universal appeal of the Hippos. Hell, I even got my 10-year old cousin [and his whole family] into the Hippos. There is no one who doesn't love the Hippos, it's a scientific fact.
[Cue eight thousand of you leaving comments like "Fuck you! The Hippos fucking suck!"]
Moving on, it was a sad day for many of us when the Hippos finally announced their breakup in February 2002 after months of speculation. It's been even more painful since then, as a new album [recorded before the breakup] has been promised ever since. The band finally has gotten their act together and with the help of Fanscape Music, released their third and last album, simply self-titled.
But enough history lessons - is the record any good?
Well first off, if you were more of a fan of the ska side of the Hippos than the keyboard side, don't even bother with this disc. Out of the ten tracks present, only one, "Your Time Has Come," contains a horn line - and the song isn't even ska, it's more of a bouncy rock number. Ariel also swears in it, which is something rather unusual [but it still works somehow].
However, if you enjoyed the evolution the Hippos were taking with Heads Are Gonna Roll, this album will be right up your alley. Virtually every track is just straight ahead pop-rock smothered in so-cheesy-it's-cool MOOG riffs. Some tracks, like "Bad Grammar," almost cry out for a horn line - they work on their own, but I could kill for a cool trumpet/trombone duet to go over the finale.
"We're Here" is a hyperactive opener and reminisicent of the band's live show - happy and sugary, without a sign of boredom in sight. The band's Weezer-influence crops up all over the disc, but some other less-expected bands seem to rub off on the group, too. For one, a definite Pixies guitar sound is evident in a number of the tracks. The most shocking influence is in "Going Home" - the first time I heard it, I honestly thought it was an Elliott Smith track. It's very melancholy and subued, with interesting instrumentation, and easily the most beautiful song the band ever wrote.
The first pressing of the disc includes five bonus tracks, ranging from the band's tribute to the land down under in "Australia" to the hair [metal] raising guitar lines of "Los Angeles."
For someone new to the band, it's hard to recommend this album over either of the other two, simply because this isn't an album - it's simply a bunch of songs the band had left over that got thrown together for one last gift to fans. If you are one of those fans, this record provides a good sense of closure to the all-too-short legacy of the Hippos; one can only hope they'll wise up and at least play an official last show as this record is stirring up some new interest in them [or even a final tour]. It's all I ask, really. Until that happens, I'll always remember the Hippos as the one band everyone could agree on - a rarity in punk rock.
Beats Don't Stop