The next time someone says to you that 'guitar music is dead' just point them in the direction of Swami John Reis and Rick Froberg. Over the course of their partnership, in Pitchfork, in Drive Like Jehu, in Reis's other much-loved band Rocket From the Crypt, they have kept finding new ways to re-invent themselves while also remaining familiarly consistent. In Hot Snakes, the duo's longest running and most 'successful' venture, they completely dominated the early Noughties almost, it seems, just to prove they could.
Fourteen years after releasing Audit in Progress, which appeared to be their final album, Hot Snakes have returned with Jericho Sirens, a blast of artful ferocity that exceeds expectations. The San Diego band, featuring Drive Like Jehu's Rick Froberg and John Reis and their buds bassist Gar Wood and drummers Jason Kourkounis and Mario Rubalcaba, is a rare confluence of dudes who bridge the raw abandon of early rock and its garage-y mutations with post-punk's complexity and focus.
When they initially reconvened to tour in 2011, it was clear nobody had filled the void they'd left behind.
Anybody unfamiliar with the many collaborations between the individual members of Hot Snakes over the years should be advised that the spider diagram you'd have to draw to try to explain it would be extraordinarily convoluted. Frontman Rick Froberg and guitarist John Reis played the same roles in the hugely influential post-hardcore outfit Drive Like Jehu, while John, bassist Gar Wood and drummer Jason Kourkounis have worked together both here and in The Night Marchers. With John also continuing to front Rocket from the Crypt and Rick a fixture in a clutch of other San Diego outfits, you begin to wonder a) how they manage to keep so many plates spinning at once and b) how much the different groups must bleed into one another in terms of their songwriting.
Baby's come back. Although the band have been performing sporadic (and excellent) shows since reuniting in 2011, the Hot Snakes-sized hole in our heart has been pining for a proper album for 14 years. The appropriately titled Jericho Sirens heralds the return of John Reis and Rick Froberg's pulverizing guitar attack, one of the most vicious pairings of the 21st century.
Jericho Sirens is the first Hot Snakes album in 14 years and it comes blasting out of the gate like a bull with murder in his bloodshot eyes. The leadoff track, "I Need a Doctor," is a thrilling declaration that the band is back and as mighty as they were before. John "Speedo" Reis and Rick Froberg's dual guitar attack, Gar Wood's pummeling bass, and the dual drum attack of Jason Kourkounis and Mario Rubalcaba combine to knock the breath out of the listener, while Froberg's howling vocals pick them up off the floor and slap them around.
The Drive Like Jehu reunion tour came to a careering finish two summers ago, but Froberg and Reis still seem to be feeling its momentum as they push on into Jericho Sirens, treads smoking and splattered engine oil griming up their guitar strings. Through their original run, Hot Snakes ' minds appeared to be increasingly weighed down with adult concerns, mundane processes like invoices and audits. Here is their moment to revel in rebirth, and yet the aches and pains are setting in right from the start.