Outside Closer (Domino)

The orthodox and banal way to start this review would be to describe Hood’s new album as “the much anticipated follow-up” to Cold House, but artists do not always lay some clear, linear progression in the course of their life. That old notion of assembling one’s oeuvre piece by piece, from humble beginnings, pathetic and uninspired in someone’s garage until you hone your skills, perfect your individual style—to put it lightly, it’s a crock of shit. [That’s because a artist’s first album is always their best. The ability to produce two or more albums makes you a sellout. Seriously. –Ed.]

If you want evidence of this, just look at Outside Closer. This latest release by the Leeds-based musicians known collectively as Hood does a great deal of what their audience has come to expect. Dub-like grimy reverb blends a hushed British accent into the background of swirling pedal distortion; the drum kit relentlessly rides and crashes while soft atonal horns, gentle guitar picking, and the occasional accordion embellish the songs rather than construct them. It doesn’t sound like much, but for me it’s enough.

But it looks like Hood had set their sights a little higher this time around. In the promo for this release, glaring emphasis is placed on the homage that Hood would pay to their much beloved and revered fellow artist, Scott Herren. And certainly laptop-style electronic noodling has been characteristic of Hood ever since their 1991 conception, so why shouldn’t they update their sound a bit and incorporate a few new elements into the scheme?

One rationale comes to mind. There’s a reason why Hood is most often described as a lo-fi outfit—it’s not due to their technical mastery over studio equipment, I can tell you that much. Whereas Scott Herren and Montreal’s Akufen both seem to possess some intrinsic aptitude for translating William Burroughs’ concept of cut-up into its rich and innovative musical manifestation, Hood’s attempts are more reminiscent of early Joan of Arc’s bedroom studio masturbations.

Fortunately this is just a minor stain on an otherwise solid recording, but if you believe in linear progressions then Hood is one band that, if you can pardon the clich, has already passed their prime.