Handsome - Handsome (Cover Artwork)


Handsome (1997)


Far's 1998 release Water & Solutions continues to receive praise - much more than it did during its original release - from the post hardcore/emo crowd for being one of the most influential records of the late 90's. It was a damn good record indeed. However, one more deserving masterpiece of an album, in my opinion, rests quietly beneath all of this hype. In fact, this measly review will probably be the first exposure that record has received anywhere in the press in years.

Handsome's 1997 self-titled debut somehow evaded the spotlight in the 90's and oddly enough (considering the current climate of today's punk scene) continues to find itself ignored to this very day by fans who would undoubtedly fall in love with it upon first listen. Not even the fact that ex-members of beloved bands like Quicksand, Murphy's Law/Cro-Mags and Helmet were in the band seems to help attract attention to what I would consider one of the best releases of the '90s.

Why is this so?

Is it the band name? Maybe. Handsome was released at the same time the ghastly "Hanson" phenomenon was taking over the country. Hanson. Handsome. The two were very similar sounding. What "punk" fan would want to be confused with fans of those pre-pubescent teen idols when wearing a Handsome t-shirt? Still though, something this mundane could not have resulted in the complete dismissal of a band this amazing.

Was it the fact that they were on Epic, a major label? Maybe, but I seriously doubt it. So was Quicksand. So was Far!

So what was it? I guess that will just have to remain one of the music industry's great mysteries.

One thing that is certain, however, is that each time I swipe the dust off of the jewel case and pop this disc into the stereo I experience what would probably be best described as a sense of discovery. Imagine a botanist stumbling upon a previously undiscovered species of plant life. Picture the excitement he/she must feel knowing that they are witnessing something special before the rest of the world's eyes are even aware of it's existence. Each listen feels like a quiet discovery. Each song creates a vivid feeling of urgency. I know, this all probably sounds far too dramatic for a record review, but it should. Handsome is a solid album from the start of track 1 to the last note of track 12.

Songs like "Left of Heaven," "Thrown Away," and "Dim the Lights" are timeless. In fact, if this record were re-released in its exact state under a different title today, no one would be able to tell that it was put on wax almost a decade ago. The smooth tempo changes, ambient guitar textures and incredibly infectious choruses grab me immediately and completely erase everything outside of that moment in time.

Elements of Quicksand, Into Another, Seaweed, Helmet, and other bands of that era were undeniably evident in Handsome's sound. The same start-stop riffs, time changes and driving melodramatic chords heard from those bands were found on this album showered by tasteful drum work and singer Jeremy Chatelain's Jonah-ish vocals. All of it is further accented by the excellent production of Terry Date.

Each song on this record is amazing. There's no filler on Handsome. It's just a shame that so few people have experienced its magic. Do yourselves a favor and pick this one up. You may have to search the web for hours to finds a used copy of Handsome, but trust me it will be worth it.