Hello Fever – Broken Lines

Hello Fever
Broken Lines

Want to force the average music snob into an exhaustive, red-faced, clenched-fist condition bundled with shaking fits and suppressed physical regurgitation? Obvious answer: of course! Who doesn’t twitter with anticipation at the prospect of having such an unpleasant bastard asphyxiate on his or her own vomit? Mention the slew of recent bands playing into the “post-punk” guise (Interpol, Editors, The Futureheads, and too many more to name) in any breath not filled with caustic cynicism, and assemble your patience for a wry verbal lashing that will inevitably follow.

The original purveyors of the post-punk pastiche fed from a variety of rich sources – unpalatable political imperfection and incessant societal restlessness, cultural intermixture and influence, the desire to radically redefine “music” – but current groups marked with the same dubious moniker seem at ease ripping off (“paying homage to”) the trailblazers that disrupted the industry in decades past rather than exploring their own territories. However, once in a while there arises a group that either A) brings something entirely new to the table, or B) doesn’t bother caring and just plays. Hello Fever is a devout believer in the second option.

Though post-punk is one of my most preferred indulgences and I’m (regretfully) not too far removed from brazen snobbery, I’d like to imagine that anyone tacking on the genre to his own publicity isn’t trying to just pull wool over my eyes. Thank goodness for my generous concession, as it allowed me to fully enjoy the beguiling trio, a product of the thriving Los Angeles underground. The sound is a bit run of the mill – well-pronounced and lively percussion, a bass unafraid to taking lead, a scratchy, irregular guitar style – but what binds the musicians together is the result of a sum much greater than their parts. Broken Lines is a textbook example of how, when restricted to a threesome, each individual member mustn’t be timid in putting their instruments forward or sharing vocal duties on occasion. Best described by the band themselves, Hello Fever doesn’t “dabble in bullshit.”

True to that proclamation, the album’s opener and title track blows by on jittery bass flourishes and jagged guitars riffs until mixing in sharp vocal stabs. Bridged by slingshot guitar work and mechanically precise drum beats, the song is an evocative portrait of how current groups can exceed the expectations of their genre by, simply, ignoring those expectations all together. “Roman Policier” synthesizes female envy into a brassy exposé on investigative tension. Tumbling bass notes underline the not-so-soft-spoken vocals like words dribbled onto notebook paper after a downcast night alone. “Hot Communication,” a product of that same desperation, crafts an arrangement comparable to a track from Unknown Pleasures played at double speed. Unlike the gloomy Joy Division, however, Hello Fever escapes any hints of dirge and opts for discreetness instead. Also avoided are the glitz and gloss of countless contemporary groups, making Broken Lines an ultimately harder-hitting and more visceral experience. Neither words nor notes are wasted, and hearing a syllable spaced out is about as likely as hearing an overblown solo or droning chord; the band knows how not to dilute the sound or wear out its welcome.

Would Hello Fever exist were it not for the post-punk pioneers of yesteryear? Probably not, and it isn’t likely that these guys will be able to convince anyone they just stumbled upon their barbed sound, but despite any derivations, they’ve come up with one of the most enjoyable releases of the year.