Review Summary: watch this space
It was during 2008 that the multi-talented Josh Klinghoffer started playing with Clint Walsh (keys/rhythm guitar) and Eric Gardner (drums) as the live backing band for Cee-Lo Green in Gnarls Barkley. The group started jamming and writing songs together while touring, recruiting bassist Jonathan Hischke from support act Broken Bells to complete the lineup that is Dot Hacker. After a handful of impressive live shows, their plans were put on the back burner when Klinghoffer (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting) joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2009. Not, however, before they had recorded an entire album's worth of material. After collecting dust for three long years, the band's debut EP is now upon us; and I daresay it has been worth the wait.
Dot Hacker waste no time drawing you into their world: a world cloaked in a swirling atmosphere of effects-laden guitar and keyboards, powerful drumming and the key ingredient: Klinghoffer's sublime, somewhat androgynous singing voice. Leadoff track ‘Inhibition’ sees the boys lay down a plodding drum beat as a foundation for the opening verse, gradually building layer upon layer of interweaving guitars and synths before Klinghoffer unleashes a triumphant climax of multi-layered guitars and soaring vocals. The listener is given a few seconds to recover as the song crackles and fizzes to its end before being smacked in the face with the distorted opening riff of 'Order/Disorder'. Hands down the hardest rocking track on the EP, it's the locked-in rhythm section who drive the song, featuring Hischke’s best, most energetic bass playing. Gardner also displays impressive power and aggression, beating his kit into submission in the last minute or two as Klinghoffer channels Jonny Greenwood circa 1997.
After the one-two punch of ‘Inhibition’ and ‘Order/Disorder’, the second half of the EP sees Dot Hacker explore the gentler side of their sound. Much of ‘Eye Opener’ drifts by in a haze of reverb and gorgeous falsetto, climaxing with an overwhelming wave of optimism; the aural equivalent of the sun’s rays bursting through clouds. Closer ‘Rewire’ is a subtle, brooding track that delves further into the band’s obvious Radiohead influence. Combining electronic effects and a somewhat dark chord progression reminiscent of Amnesiac
, the music matches the uneasiness in Klinghoffer’s voice as he sings ‘I’m not calling you a liar / I know you have been trying / trying to inspire / but now I don’t know who I’m to believe’
. Eventually though, the darkness passes as he seems to accept the situation and move on, bringing the EP to a peaceful conclusion.
The self-confidence evident on Dot Hacker’s debut is a very positive sign. These four songs offer a taste of the band’s versatile songwriting ability while also fitting together as a cohesive whole. Clearly, this is a group of experienced, talented musicians who know exactly what they are doing. Their full length LP Inhibition
is already written, recorded and due for release later this year; and if Dot Hacker
is any indication, then we are in for one hell of a record.