Hammer No More The Fingers
Black Shark


3.5
great

Review

by J. Ponton EMERITUS
April 8th, 2011 | 10 replies | 7,831 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Hammers grow as a band and do exactly what we, by now at least, expected them to do.

I recently read a certain review for Black Shark that took off points because, according to the writer of the article, instead of being the post-grunge successors to Nickelback that Hammer No More The Fingers could have been (the band isn’t even Canadian, doy), the band goes for this tongue-in-cheek 90s indie rock aesthetic that ultimately holds it, and its second full-length, back from true greatness – yes, true greatness, as defined by the publication. While in no way do I hold the same view as said writer, his habit of looking into the dark for things already far into daylight, or more simply his search for something that the band could never be, did seem to parallel my own past view when it came to the listening and the analyzing of bands like Hammer No More The Fingers, 90s indie rock revivalists: we are, or at least I was at the time, listening for the wrong things when hearing these bands - he the next Chad Kroeger hit machine, I mere innovation and originality.

Times have changed, however.

Every so often a record like Black Shark lands in my hands after the realization that hooks and traditionalist songwriting were actually the primary C.S.I. tools that I should use to pick apart these bands still lost in Built To Spill’s expanses. And I can gladly say that I hear something better. You practically already know the twang of the guitar that meets you with these (for me at least, local) North Carolinians, even before “Atlas of An Eye” starts in with its progression from a particular Joe Hall, a guitarist who likes to oddly stand behind leaves in press release photos. Bassist and vocalist Ducan Webster follows and steps up to the plate with an indie-rock-ized Britt Daniel delivery, and viola – 90s indie rock, twenty years later, with a new coat of paint. Once again. Having heard an album like this a year ago, or even months ago, I would have given it the obligatory 2.5/5, just because it, quite frankly, would have offered nothing new.

“I think it’s a little more open sounding,” the singer told The Chronicle in a recent interview when comparing the sound of 2009’s Looking for Bruce with Black Shark, “it’s a lot more dynamic. It has a groovier sort of feel to it, a bigger atmosphere.” Indeed, a bigger atmosphere is one way to describe Hammer’s growth as a mirror for 20 years in the past. On “Shark”, the band explodes mid-song with murky guitar distortion and, surprisingly, hand-claps that seem to shred into resounding pieces the pre-conceived song structure that the band instilled in your head with the first verse-chorus run. Next cut “Leroy” finds Webster on the pedestal with something akin to Julian Casablancas charisma, the singer slowing down with a low-produced bed of strings that comes at the end of the track, all before exploding again for one final chorus. The band may still keep to the attributes of good ol’ indie rock that we (or, the locals) heard on Bruce, but they’ve turned everything up a notch for an effort that far surpasses that of the minimal debut.

Dynamics aren’t the only thing pulling Hammers far and ahead of their past selves on Black Shark, though. As fans of the old hand, we find hooks and hooks, and hidden Robert Pollard worship, mind you, running up and down this well-made package. Varying guitar tones, all revolving on a set clean, yet slightly distorted setting, run rampant through the structure of “Steam”, a song that has the band offering vocal harmonies to complement Webster as he champions the mic like a twenty-year-old vet. “It’s about Caring” is a reverb soaked affair that keeps the singer’s voice drenched in guitar distortion, as he uses a repetition of phrases to cement his hooks: “I’ve got music playing / I’ve got people on the scene who take care of me.”

Hammers are really firm believers in the in-music-we-live-or-die philosophy, and on earlier cut “The Agency”, the North Carolinians sign themselves away to taking care of it all by themselves: “You take care of yourself,” Webster declares, “And I’ll take care of the agency”. Blind faith against staggering opposition, a world of other 90s indie rock revivalists, and those listeners that would throw them off easily because of sounding rehashed, is almost enough for this writer to take this aspiring band totally seriously. They do write well crafted hooks and songs after all, so blatant with many of the influences we know and love, yet do so with a maturity and with reverence for these better bands, and their better albums. A tribute if you will, yet nowhere having the commercial ambitions of the next Dark Horse (which is good), Black Shark is the kind of record you enjoy if you know what to listen for, if you’ve heard it before, ironically, and if the band follows the decade-old recipe down to a t. The Hammers do just that, all the while giving evidence of their growing maturity as songwriters.



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user ratings (4)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Eskate87
April 8th 2011



959 Comments


This sounds really interesting. Nice review, will check out.

Hep Kat
April 8th 2011



15243 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the demos or something of this were up on soulseek for a little bit and i grabbed them back in december-ish, so i'll be looking forward to hearing the actual album. band has such a cool name

Digging: Botany Boyz - Forever Botany

rasputin
April 8th 2011



14538 Comments


recommended by reviewer
Nickelback Dark Horse



wut

Knott-
Emeritus
April 8th 2011



10195 Comments


is it protocol now for your second paragraph to be one line long?!

Ponton
Emeritus
April 8th 2011



5785 Comments


Not intentionally

Tyrael
April 8th 2011



20795 Comments


recommended by reviewer
The Strokes Is This It

Interesting...

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 8th 2011



23800 Comments


please don't recommend I listen to Nickelback. That's just mean.

I'm not gonna lie, I clicked because I saw a shark. The album sounds kind of cool though.

Fespermaniac
April 9th 2011



1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I saw them in Swansea last year and was impressed. I got Black Shark on the basis of this interesting review and am very glad I did.

demigod!
April 9th 2011



44062 Comments


Cool name.

Digging: Failure - Magnified

DustinWindex
April 20th 2011



31 Comments


I'm from NC, played 2 or 3 shows with these guys with a postrock band I was in.

No only great Indie players, AMAZINGLY humble and nice guys.

I was thinking of doing a review of Looking for Bruce, that cd is amazing.



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