Hot Cross – Fair Trades and Farewells EP

Hot Cross
Fair Trades and Farewells EP

Hot Cross is a band in dire need of some Ritalin. Spewing forth with violent, erratic precision, this hyper-charged quintet, which features ex-members of Saetia, Joshua Fit for Battle, and You and I, unleash flurry after spastic flurry of jagged, menacing riffs at a maniacal pace that ought to set a lot of pulses racing this year. This is bludgeoning, razor-sharp hardcore/punk that is reminiscent of the sort of stuff that At the Drive-In was dishing out on Relationship of Command, albeit with less grit and polish but more cantankerous energy. Twin guitars do not so much interlock and weave in unison as they careen and collide off of one another with thick, abrasive riffs juxtaposed against spiraling, lightning fast metallic leads.

Fair Trades and Farewells is a whirlwind affair to be sure, and as such it is not without its moments of confounding convolution. These guys have talent and chops to spare, but a little more focus would go a long way. It’s not that Hot Cross needs to tone things down or play things closer to the hilt; just trimming away some of the excess fat and reigning in some of the more flamboyant urges would have made for a more digestible and accessible EP.

Still, I wouldn’t want to leave the reader with any wrong impressions. At its core, this is fierce, ambitious, well-played stuff that is cathartic and raw. The seething vocals stir the pot well with high-pitched melodic singing (another tip of the hat to ATDI) combining with scathing, panic-ridden screaming to strike a key balance between emotional exhilaration and visceral aggression. The pummeling rhythmic attack of tracks like the vicious opener “Prepare/Repair” and the more chaotic “Throw Collars to the Wind” reveal the group’s knack for innovation and musical bravado, while more subdued and moody numbers like the atmospheric instrumental “Two Cripples Dancing” and, especially, the simmering closer “Consonants” highlight the band’s ability to deliver strong memorable hooks without having to dumb down the product.

My guess is that more and more of us will be hearing from Hot Cross before too long. The band’s somewhat eclectic approach to songwriting should cross enough boundaries to attract a wide fanbase from indie scenesters to diehard punks. However, it’s the band’s immense collective talent as musicians that should really see them through. While Fair Trades and Farewells may have its lapses and minor flaws, part of me believes that given more time and work this EP could have been one of the year’s best. As it is, the ferocious intensity and high-wire instrumentation are nearly impossible to deny. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on this one.