Release Date: Jun 25, 2013
Record label: Safe & Sound
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Get ye to the beach and jump around with some friends: you know, the way hip clothing adverts make you think your life could be, but actually never will be… until you give yourself over to an album like Recommended Record. If the world were a fair place, this would be pumping out of car stereos from New Cross to Newquay until the clocks go back again. With their third album, Wire guitarist Matthew Simms and cohorts (including drummer Will Blackaby, whose own Shy Nature project has just come out of hiding – check Deadly Sin on YouTube) create infectious, wonky guitar-pop the likes of which we’ve not heard enough of recently.
Let’s start with the obvious: the band name, general crapness of. In the same way that a lot of misguided people have never bothered listening to My Bloody Valentine because their name makes them sound like the kind of band that Metal Hammer readers slobber over, any reasonable person could easily mistake London-based foursome It Hugs Back and their arty-crafty pipecleaners ‘n’ hessian album artwork for some kind of insufferably cuddly folk-pop group – and be understandably turned off. Which would be a terrible shame, because It Hugs Back are not, in fact, an insufferably cuddly folk-pop group.
Mistakenly aligned with the indie-pop scene due to their cheery demeanour and soppy name, the third album from Kent’s IHB honours frontman Matthew Simms’ sideline as guitarist with Wire by trammelling through 35 minutes of home-studio lo-fi psych that resembles Tame Impala with their foot down hard on the pop-hook pedal. When they’re not shoegazing on ‘Sa Sa Sa Sails’, they’re spinning hypnotic trances on ‘Sometimes’ or conjuring waft-pop bliss on ‘Teenage Hands’. Otherworldly pop that’s sweetly gripping.
Though Kent, England indie quartet It Hugs Back worked with legendary labels like Too Pure and 4AD for their earliest output, their 2012 sophomore full-length, Laughing Party, saw release on the band's own Safe & Sound imprint. Third album Recommended Record also came out on the band's label, and based on the nearly song-to-song stylistic shifts, it's possible that the complete artistic freedom of releasing their own music suits It Hugs Back best. Recommended Record's ten tracks blow by in just a little over half an hour, and all crackle with colorful production and the type of jangly pop touches that Supergrass and the Boo Radleys opened the doors for decades previously.
If you'd never heard a record by It Hugs Back before, the name might suggest an indie-pop band of the twee variety, in thrall to the oeuvre of Sarah Records. Even the title of the album, Recommended Record, is a throwback to the days when your local indie music emporium stocked 7" of the Top 100 singles in box shelving behind the counter. But if you thought a bit harder, you would consider the “It”, a hint that it is not a he or a she reciprocating that cuddle, it's an IT – an animal or an unspecified creature: perhaps one of Pete Fowler's phantasmagorical creations, or Sulley from Monsters Inc doling out a back-breaking clinch.