While I struggle to get out of my live-music pandemic inertia, I’m fortunate to have gritty rock and roll locals to shake me out of my stupor from time to time. Enter Hydrone, an act with Brian Baker behind the skins, Mario Malachi shredding guitar, and Peter Brown on bass. Brown and Malachi share vocal duties. The press release for this album duly refers to their sound as “psychotic garage” and only a couple of songs into the record, I think I agree.
Fuzz is a term that can be used somewhat liberally in reference to albums like this. In the case of Hydrone, fuzz is a rather abrasive term. Synonymous with noise in some cases. But not in an unpleasant sense. Yet, walking that line between pleasantries and abrasiveness seems to be Hydrone’s M.O.; the reverb-laden yelps would be one person’s annoyance, and joyful noise to another. Even the title of the album seems to be in two worlds; a “you are here” marker of serious personal struggle expressed as a silly pun.
I should mention here that expressing an effect as a yelp feels accurate and incomplete at the same time. Each effect is deliberate. There’s a vocal chemistry here that feels very natural.
As I sit at home surrounded by my creature comforts, ditties like “Scissor Thief” are musical reminders that I need balance in my life from this kind of sound. Polished vibes are cool, but so is fuzzy rock. There’s something down to earth and authentic in this sound that simply isn’t present in most of what permeates my listening habits these days. The line, “you’re missing time, you’re gonna hit your head” feels pointedly directed at me in the context of this thought. “Phantom Piss” is a jam session that is silly and not at the same time – as awkward as that description might sound. This song almost seems to be yelling at me to stop overthinking my approach to this record.
I could look at the track lengths of the album and say something phoned-in like “this band likes to keep the listener guessing” but in listening to the title track, which clocks in at over 7 minutes long, I think I can say confidently that even on a single listen of the album nothing feels out of left field. Paradoxically, during the climax of the song I’m thinking to myself “I never expected to be reminded of Death Cab.”
I gotta take a moment to give a shout out to Brian Baker – one of the busiest and most prolific drummers in Columbus. For a very long time, I mainly knew him as the guy that sometimes serves me chai lattes and hot ciders at Cup O’ Joe and “that guy from Brat Curse” but after listening to his solo venture Brian Damage and now this, I have a new appreciation for what he does. So, kudos to your versatility, sir.
Hydrone is a band I heard live for the first time at 934 Fest a few weeks ago, and I chose, regrettably, to let them blend into the background while I waited in line at a food truck and caught up with folks I hadn’t seen since pre-quarantine days. After giving Death Perception an intentional listen in the comfort of my own home, I wish I had taken the time to watch and really take in up close and personal what this trio is capable of. This is an album that snuck up on me. It grows on you the deeper you get into it. It is a cohesive body of work, but the first half of the album as a standalone piece of work gives off a completely different vibe than the back half – which I think is my favorite.