Hifi Handgrenades - Carry On (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Hifi Handgrenades

Carry On (2008)

New Romance For Kids

Like Hellmouth, Detroit's Hifi Handgrenades formed from the ashes of beloved ska-punk/hardcore mainstays, the Suicide Machines (also ex-members of the Fags). Anyone looking for even a scant sonic resemblance to Rich and Ryan's previous band won't find one in Carry On but soon as you hit play you can see why the band's partnership with Montreal's New Romance For Kids Records makes sense. It isn't 90's hardcore or upbeat thirdwave ska that motivate these guys but Cheap Trick-style power pop, roots rock and early 80's hardcore punk much like Montreal greats of the past like the Asexuals and Doughboys.

One might see it as a bad thing that "Cut Strings" sort of gives away what you are going to get on the rest of the album, but it isn't. The mid-paced punk tempo driven by chugging riffs; accented by melodic leads isn't an anomaly and neither is the tunefully gravel voice of John Speck singing lyrics of struggle and perseverance. Yet, the way these things are arranged in each an every song makes for an energetic and catchy listen every time. Even when the band picks up their pace on songs like the Positively 4th Street-esque "Smiling Judas", things are just memorable as ever with the hook "You're smiling look at your pearly whites, you're smiling as you're sharpening that knife.".

John's voice combines the perfect amount of pop sweetness and grit and really marries itself to the music behind it, so introducing another vocalist for the first time half way through the album is a bit of a gamble. Thankfully, Tony's cleaner vocals are a great compliment to John's and as their trade-off delivery in "Facing the Firing Squad" demonstrates they have a good rapport, which si something they will build upon in the future.

The final song on the album is "Detroit Has a Skyline", and yes it is a Superchunk cover. Although, it is hard to imagine anyone but Mac singing this song, these guys really own it. I know it is just a power pop band covering another power pop band, but they could have really dropped the ball on it. John's voice is a bit lower than Mac's but it suits the melody swimmingly and the guitar tone they chose compliments the song very well. Considering the song is about the band's hometown, a real affection for the source material comes across in the recording. It also helps remind us that as great a band as Superchunk was they deserve more cover versions of their songs.

There is something to be said for a great pop song, and Hifi Handgrenades know this. While Carry On may be an extremely straightforward record it is also front-to-back and extremely satisfying record full of interesting guitar lines and hooks that really stick. Nine original songs and one cover might seem a little skimpy, but there isn't a spec of filler to be found on the whole album and more importantly it has you hitting the repeat button.