Taking Pictures – Friends Are Ghosts

Taking Pictures
Friends Are Ghosts

Perhaps one of the most talented and oft-overlooked Chicago bands from the mid-90s was Hurl, a four-piece that played emotional and intricate rock, sometimes intense, sometimes melodic. They released a handful of albums on My Pal God, DeSoto, and other labels before disbanding. Three of the four members of Hurl make up this new project, Taking Pictures, and their first full-length brings to mind the classic ability of Hurl with a more modern and intricate style.
One of the few things I remember about Hurl was the absolutely fantastic drumming, and this release rides its spectacular rhythm section. Rolling and complex yet decidedly flowing, the rhythm drives these songs and complements the other instrumentation. Jangly guitars add a mid-90s flare that sits very well with me, and all three band members sing, their vocals working well off each other whether gruff or more mellow. Song tracks make up the lines to a poem for an interesting touch.
The opener, “Hibernation for a Hyper Nation,” is my favorite track. That percussion hits you instantly, taking a calm yet intricate mid-tempo pace, and jangly guitars come over top, with vocals that have the slight gruff quality of Buffalo Tom’s singer. The whole song reminds me of the mid-90s alternative hay-day without sounding tired or retro, and that’s why I enjoy it most. It flows almost seemlessly into “Faces, Smearing,” which ups the tempo a bit, the vocals coming more intense until the song fades out gracefully. “Words Sound Like Drums” uses all three vocalists, sometimes together, as the guitars blaze over the intricate rhythm. “So ashamed, so uninspired / Single file, single file,” the band sings with a kind of determination. Much more mellow, the bass adds the subtle groove and motivation behind “We Are Only…”
The more esoteric “You Serve, You’re So” is over nine minutes and more instrumentally intensive, with vocals serving as more of a supplement. Those lyrics are rather cryptic, as you might guess from the song title, but they feel secondary to the slightly angular yet melodic music. Distortion and a long, moody intro gives “Eighteen Questions” a more urgent feel, with the repeated lyrics “What’s your new agenda?” and the guitars reminding me of Fugazi at times. And again it serves as an intro to the next track, “That Fight We Should Have Had we never had” which does get more intense and features those jangly guitars stepping up a notch, really blaring out over some of the most up-tempo rhythm on the album, and it basically ends the album, save for a short drum-thing.
All three members have kept busy since leaving Hurl, performing with the Karl Hendricks Trio, Paul Newman, and Milemarker. I hope that Taking Pictures is the full-time gig for these guys, because they obviously gel effortlessly. These songs flow together, creating one epic-sounding release, while maintaining a definite post-hardcore edge. Fans of intricate rhythm – and percussion especially – will find this band vital.