HAD – Primo de la Rocket Suit

Primo de la Rocket Suit

The boys in Washington State band HAD have put together a great album with many different sounds and styles, an indie album in the classic sense of the word. Influenced by classic indie and “alternative rock” bands of the 90s, HAD have made a record that not only has strong production but also well written and arranged songs. You can’t go wrong in this situation: There’s quality virtually bursting through the sides of the jewel case. This is the sound of a band who has taken their time to craft something exactly the way they wanted to, and it’s STILL all about the massive songwriting skills shown here.
The band has not one but three able vocalists, each with very distinctive styles. Guitar player Matt Kristiansen handles most of the songs, and he’s also the guy who will be cultivating all of the Doug Martsch comparisons. (Plus, giving a song the title of “Center of the Galaxy” doesn’t do much to discourage this.) His voice brings out the Leo Sayer-like tendencies that Martsch is known for. The songs, you ask? Excellent. Check out the opener, “You’ll Pay,” a beautiful pop gem chock full of slide guitar, hushed vocals and inventive production. This is followed up by another great tune, “Policemen and Planes,” highlighting another great stoned pop melody. What a cool way to start a record!
Guitar player Marty Ballew has a Billy Corgan-like quality to his voice, without getting into the annoying zone by pushing it out of his range. His dreamy contribution, “She’s North,” is a great bit of pop in and of itself, full of spacey keyboard sounds and slide guitars. (Think Radiohead’s The Bends-era production.) Nice!
However, two of my favorite songs are sung by bassist Matt Cory. The guy is obviously a Sebadoh devotee, and he knows how to write totally beautiful pop songs just like ‘ol Lou Barlow. “Pawnshopping” is a future classic. Cory utilizes the lower register of his voice, and it gives a beautiful, back-porch feel to his songs. The creepy “Under the Power of Circumstances (an Old Irish Lullaby)” will bring to mind Barlow’s darker tunes, with its smooth layered vocals and melancholy atmosphere. Having this kind of variety on an album will surely keep this one in my player for some time to come.
This is an indie album in all senses of the word, complete with the strange, experimental tracks that a larger label would likely discard. “Gregg Anderson, the Band and Me” is a twisted, lo-fi garage-punk tune, with a banjo-spiced country outro tacked on for some reason. “Alias,” a nice ode to paranoia, is sure to become my apartment’s anthem, starting with this lyric: “Photographs from satellites are documenting your whole life…” The song ends with a hidden Ween tribute of sorts complete with slowed vocals and drug references. Odd, but then again, why the hell not?
Overall, this is a stellar work from this little ‘ol band from Washington. Out of 13 songs, 10 of them are total winners, which is a great batting average. I recommend you get over to their website and order one of these so you can hear it for yourself. I’ll be keeping an eye on this band to be sure.