Hot Snakes was formed in 1999 by John Reis (whom also was is RFTC) and Rick Froburg of Drive Like Jehu, Mario Rubalcaba of Rocket From The Crypt fame along with Gar Wood of Beehive and the Barracudas .Their first release "Automatic Midnight" paved the way for an amazing (And underrated) band.
Automatic Midnight (AM) starts with "If Credits What Matters I'll Take Credit", and immediately you can hear the blend of post-punk and garage band sound in the guitar and drums. Very quickly Reis throws in his classic and distinguishing yell. A crunching guitar riff accompanies his voice giving the song a dance like feel. The song ends nicely with the feedback helping to fade Reis's voice out to set up the next track.
Track two is the title track of AM, starting only with a lone guitar riff, it anticipates the defiant "Come On!" that Reis yells just seconds later as the rest of the band fills in. The three-chord shows that they know their roots. The slight keyboard sounds are a nice touch during the chorus. The only problem with this track is that it seems to short.
"No Hands" follows as track three starts again with a lone guitar before the obscure lyrics chime in, "Yeah cut 'em off/I could do this with stumps/Hands off me/I know I can do without”. The guitar work seems stand out in this track, with many light touches on the chord changes that make it a pleasure to listen too.
"Salton City" starts as keyboard noises ring about followed by a catchy drumbeat to start the song off. The bass follows with a simple line before the vocals come in. The guitar jumps around as group vocals sing the chorus of "Give us a kiss". The song ends nicely with a nice clunky guitar.
A guitar fades in for the fifth song "10th Planet" as another guitar taps chords in anticipation for the drums and vocals. The guitar is slightly poppy and catchy but it can't seem to hold my attention for to long. It picks it-self up with a change of tempo and a nice ending.
As track six begins with two guitars emphasizing the garage band influence and even sounding Ramones-esque. "Light Up The Stars" goes through its motions very well; the verses are catchy with good lyrics to attract the instruments, while the chorus is the exact opposite, with the instruments adding on to Reis's lyrical abilities.
The drumming starts off "Our Work Fills The Pews" nicely. This track sounds like it's straight out of an early Rocket From The Crypt album, with catchy background vocals and Reis monotone moans scattered around the song. Definitely a stand out track.
"Past Lives" seems like a bit of a filler track, kind of blending in with the rest of the album. What stands out most is the humorous lyrics, "Straight outta the mouth of a rat/I've got my mouth in the lap/Of a girl I've been seeing in my dreams".
Another track that’s reminiscent of RFTC, "Mystery Boy" starts with a short drum roll and then straight into a shaky verse. The catchy guitar work in the bridges put a nice touch on parts of the song, as well as hints of keyboard. But again, it seems like this song is over too soon.
An instrumental track "Apartment 0" starts and pretty much keeps the same beat up for most of the song, it's short so it's not much to worry about and acts as a setup for the final track.
"Let It Come" ends AM as it blasts its way quickly through your ears with everything Hot Snakes have. Little change-ups in the guitar and instrumental intermissions between vocals lengthen the song without making it unbearable. It ends nicely with the statement, "The message from the management says you gotta go/America will settle for less".
Overall, Automatic Midnight is a great album, but drags along in some places, while falls short in others.
Stand Out Tracks
If Credits What Matters I'll Take Credit
Let It Come
Our Work Fills The Pews