Let’s have an honest and frank discussion about the band Hundredth, shall we?
You could say I’m a long-time apologist for the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina band. My first exposure to them was via their sophomore full-length, 2011’s Let Go. Before I knew anything about them, it simply struck me as an honestly well-done rendition of what we can sort of refer to as “Hardcore 4.0”: a slowly dating stripe of the style that essentially hybridized melodic hardcore and more modern metalcore. This was popularized significantly around the turn of the oughts and early 2010s, a sound whose primary influencers are essentially Shai Hulud and Misery Signals, but void of those bands’ high-level musicianship and technicality. (There’s perhaps even a shade of the straightforward, heavy aggression of more contemporary acts like Terror, or Killing the Dream.) As controversial as Shai Hulud or Misery Signals was during their respective peaks of popularity (and we can acknowledge that the former is long past theirs), both have maintained a mostly respectable legacy and acknowledgment for their unique place in hardcore’s vast evolution.
Far more often than not, however, those bands’ followers have trended towards a watered-down version of this sound. It quickly became so bad that the Lambgoat and Stuff You Will Hate communities derided it as “srscore,” or “serious hardcore”: bands whose lyrical output felt like overly solemn screeds about nothing but who were also well-removed, sonically, from hardcore punk’s musical tenets, often utilizing clean singing, highly melodic overtones and overly polished studio production in a seemingly crass effort to have a wider appeal while keeping a foot in some semblance of subculture.
I’d soon learn that Hundredth did not have a favorable reputation, in part because of this scene they so often found themselves in. They certainly didn’t do themselves any favors to disassociate from this perspective. Their first label, Mediaskare, was known for chasing bad heavy music trends no self-respecting Minor Threat or Earth Crisis fan would (rightly) bother with: f.e., the progressive metalcore djent of Volumes, or the douche chill-inducing deathcore of As Blood Runs Black. And Hundredth did not shy away from touring right alongside “serious hardcore”’s most visible ambassadors like the Ghost Inside and Counterparts. And though their lyrics lacked any truly overt Jesus Christ or Biblical references, and they would somewhat play it down in interviews, they were also a Christian band.
But I don’t know. There was always something different about them. By no means were they reinventing the wheel; hell, they were arguably riding the bandwagon the proverbial wheel was affixed to. If you ask frontman Chadwick Johnson, he may not even fully deny this. But the version of the sound they attached themselves to and toyed with over the course of several albums and EPs was still genuinely pretty good; more straightforward and far less dense or douchey than their peers, to be sure. Perhaps this is why, in spite of non-stop touring and a consistent release schedule, they never achieved the followings of their aforementioned peers, the kind that can sustain a full-time band with some sort of livable wage.
If you held the above purview Hundredth have always been poor imitators and/or trend-chasers, their latest album, RARE is only an exclamation point on your argument. It does away fully -- and I mean fully -- with Hundredth’s prior sound in favor of the shoegaze-enhanced ‘90s alt-rock revival brought to us by acts like Nothing and watershed punk moments like Title Fight’s Hyperview, yet with an ultra-clean, practically chrome-plated modern metalcore production sheen. Even I’d agree it feels like they’re late to the party. It’s a genuinely shocking change, a bit in the Ceremony ca. The L-Shaped Man way if we’re talking modern hardcore bands embracing a total sonic overhaul. But here I find myself yet again listening to them and simply thinking, “This is good.” RARE is stocked with energetic songs wielding well-executed soft-loud dynamics, reverb-drenched singing, memorable riffs and guitar textures that yawn across the sphere. Remove all the unnecessary conversation surrounding the actual art and it’s another categorically well-done and inviting entry in its given subgenre. But arguably even more so than Let Go and all its following efforts was, and certainly Hundredth’s best musical output to date.
I’m not sure how many Hundredth fans carry this same sense of self-awareness as myself, but I felt it necessary to preface this live review with an analytical defense of them to those who may have always viewed the band so unfavorably. In any event, it’s more fun than “they’re good, fuck off.”
ANYHOW, this vast sonic change Hundredth has embraced extends to their touring life. For a tour where they’re playing RARE in its entirety featuring a “visual experience” as well, there’s nary a hint of modern hardcore in their tourmates.
Opener Tennis System had to drop off due to some van malfunctions, so Gleemer kicked it off for the modestly sized crowd on this Sunday night at ONCE Lounge & Ballroom in Somerville, Mass. They played an emo rock style that wasn’t bad by any means, but definitely lacked a certain panache. They performed well, to be sure, and were very appreciative of any warm response from the audience. Something about them reminds me of Title Fight playing at half-speed (though definitely not vocal-wise), but they might just use some of the same effects pedals or something.
Brooklyn’s Spotlights were next, and were interesting for all sorts of reasons. I didn’t know much about this band prior, and was most definitely thrown for a loop when I saw Chris Enriquez, formerly of Long Island screamo/post-hardcore greats On the Might of Princes, mulling around. It turns out he’s Spotlights touring drummer; the band themselves is comprised of respective bassist and guitarist Sarah and Mario Quintero. Musically, they played a kind of super heavy, doomy/sludgy post-metal with gothic, mostly clean vocals and a hint of subtle shoegaze influence. It recalled all sorts of different things for me, from locals Junius to Justin Broadrick’s post-Godflesh project Jesu -- and certainly some Godflesh themselves, or even Neurosis. The more I thought about it, the more the vocals actually reminded me of how Mark Kozelek sounds on Red House Painters’ “Funhouse”, weirdly enough. They were an esoteric, nicely interesting setup for Hundredth.
Hundredth came out next to do their thing and play their latest album, the transformative RARE, in its entirety. They were bathed in video projection light throughout, with a different video for every song. Some were strange, swirling liquids or colored patterns, while others were old footage of surfers, or an urban road trip. They also included some sound (movie monologue?) clips in between various songs, though I wasn’t sure of the source.
Musically, I was actually skeptical at first, as the vocals sounded extra reverb-y and a bit buried, and the guitar and vocal melodies felt a little flatter than on record. But things seemed to improve early on in the set as the band settled in and started churning through the record. They were sounding very good by the latter stages. On record, straightforward cuts like "Suffer" are my favorites, but the more varied songs live stood out. “Disarray” was an aggressive diversion amid all the other moments of angsty bliss, while Johnson took off his guitar for “Shy Vein” and became the synth man, putting extra emphasis on that element in their new sound. The Cure-ish closer “Departure” was a slowed-down, atmospheric highlight and lovely comedown outro for things. It was a fairly no-nonsense set that showcased Hundredth’s newest evolution quite well.
Set list (10:20-11:13):
RARE in full:
- White Squall
- Shy Vein