Out Hud: Let Us Never Speak of it Again

Out Hud's sophomore release Let Us Never Speak of it Again has been a long time in coming, given the band's (Phyllis Forbes, Molly Schnick, Tyler Pope, Nic Offer, and Justin Vandervoigen) Street Dad debut appeared in November 2002 (the interval perhaps partially attributable to Pope, Offer and Vandervoigen's involvement with !!!). The album sounds anything but laboured, though, and in fact bursts with constant energy and imagination. With the material shaped by Vandervoigen at the mixing desk, the band's tight mix of cello, bass, guitar and drums reveals meticulous craft yet never lapses into ponderousness (plus the group's not afraid to embrace the past, as evidenced by the mellotron meltdown in “2005: A Face Odyssey”).

While its music grows out of myriad influences, the group is no pastiche; rather it alchemizes a wealth of historical background—soul, New Wave, funk, disco, groups like New Order, Kraftwerk, and Human League—into a sound that's uniquely its own. The stunner “It's For You” splendidly showcases the band's strengths. Merging elements of tribal stomping funk, sugary Tom Tom Club pop, New Wave disco, even house, the song never collapses into a confused mess but instead impresses as delectably clever (e.g., the haunting hook of the pterodactyl screech piercing the background) and irresistible fun with no compromise to the musical intelligence guiding it.

The group brings a similar strength of imagination to instrumentals too. “The Song So Good They named it Thrice” exudes combustible levels of intensity and passion as it moves through alternating loud and soft episodes. The opening stoked tribal rhythms and inflamed synth-guitar theme escalate to an explosive pitch before ceding to motorik disco-funk rhythms overlaid by Schnick's lovely cello tones and bleeping synths, with the synth-guitar episode eventually returning in even more fiery manner. Also striking is the incredible bridge the group fashions between “The Zillionth Watt” (vocally denoted as “A Trillion Watts”) and (ahem) “Dear Mr. Bush, There are over 100 words for shit and only 1 for Music. Fuck You, Out Hud.” The 2-minute lead-in opens with Jesse Sparhawk's heavenly harp strums before being joined by aggressive vocal chants. The phrase “With the children of the trillion watts” is chopped into a “trillion watts” loop that becomes a marvelous segue into the long instrumental, which immediately pursues a radically different direction with knife-edged synths stabbing a disco-funk groove. Still, at over 11 minutes, the piece (not surprisingly) feels needlessly long and might have been more effective at half the length.

It's a consistently strong album, so much so that a remarkable slice of funky synth-pop like “How Long” with its ‘70s-styled handclaps and flanged funk bass, ends up sounding like business as usual, even though it would probably be many another album's peak. While not a revolutionary piece of work, Let Us Never Speak of it Again offers one delightful dance-floor pleasure after another and proves itself a synthesis that transcends its wide-ranging influences.

March 2005