Release Date: Jul 29, 2014
Record label: Dovecote Records
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
Synth-rock acts, once heralded as the leading edge of indie, now face a challenge from critics and followers of underground music. As the genre has gone mainstream, its most prominent artists have enjoyed more commercial success, but have faced pressure from the press and an always-hungry audience to innovate or be ignored. Hooray For Earth's last album, 2011's True Loves, was a solid touchstone in polished, synth-based indie rock.
New York-via-Boston indie rockers Hooray for Earth sidestepped the '90s worship partaken by some of their peers around the time of their 2011 debut, True Loves, opting instead for a blend of hard-edged guitars and decidedly soft-hearted synthesizer pop more informed by the eternal melodic heart of the '80s than the grunge revival of the early 2010s. That album found the band blurring synth lines and enormous electro beats with hyper-hooky songs, finding similar re-envisionings of '80s radio pop as those dreamed up by MGMT, M83, or even later-period Strokes. Second album Racy takes steps away from the sometimes subdued feel of True Loves, offering a slightly beefier but no less catchy breed of pop.
A band doesn’t have to be legendary, or even great, to be definitive. Case in point: Hooray For Earth. If you consider “alt synth-rock” to be a thing—and you should—any given release from the Brooklyn band could be considered state of the art. In the three-year stretch between their first EP and 2011’s True Loves, their aesthetic evolved from a less polychromatic rendering of MGMT’s Mario Paint symphonies to a parallel of the percussive, vaguely mystic electro-pop streamlining of Animal Collective and Yeasayer.
"Hey, little one/I'm going to find you," singer-guitarist Noel Heroux promises in "Hey," pressing through a wall of black fuzz and spires of harmonic distortion in a yearning, boyish voice, like a less-nasal Billy Corgan. That intimate desperation, scored with the manicured-guitar heft of Smashing Pumpkins and the chrome-keyboard gleam of the Cars, runs through Racy – the second LP by Heroux's Brooklyn band and a fine new-model blast of classic, alternative rock. There is little emotional resolution in Heroux's songs, but the disruptive grandeur in "Keys" and "Last, First" – crisp, electronic sequencing scarred with scouring power chords and soprano-drone guitar – is pitch-perfect.
Hooray For Earth’s first full-length album, 2011’s ‘True Loves’ – and more specifically its title track – earned them ample praise from people who mourned the loss of Late Of The Pier and hadn’t yet connected with MGMT’s second album, but Noel Heroux’s group have never really possessed the guile and invention of either. The flipside, of course, is that they’re less likely to suddenly split or disappear unexpectedly down a prog-rock rabbit hole. Hooray For Earth’s particular brand of synth-rock rarely strays from convention, but as songs like ‘Keys’ and ‘Last, First’ attest, this sort of stuff needn’t always confound to succeed.
With one ricocheting, window-rattling, distorted guitar chord, Hooray for Earth seem to announce, “We are older, wiser, and this time, we are not fucking around.” Over the course of two EPs between 2009 and 2011, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Boston group generated a substantial amount of indie buzz that proved well-earned with the release of 2011’s much-adored debut, True Loves. Three years is a lifetime (or three) in the world of internet buzz, and while band leader Noel Heroux kept busy gigging as a touring guitarist for bands like Cymbals Eat Guitars and Autre Ne Veut, news from the Hooray for Earth front was intermittent. It’s clear that the pressure of following up a beloved debut album weighed heavily on Heroux’s mind.
The genetics of Brooklynite electro outfit Hooray For Earth are beginning to show signs of mutation; a sonic shift in sound becoming more evident post the release of 2011’s True Loves. Somewhere in the three years that separate that debt and Racy, their second full length, the vibrant, dominating synthscapes which encompassed the tracks of True Loves have paled. Replacing them; growling chugs of guitar flecked with electronics and an underwhelming attempt to wander right from left-field.