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It Hugs Back
Recommended Record Joe Clay , May 9th, 2013 09:56

If you'd never heard a record by It Hugs Back before, the name might suggest an indie-pop band of the twee variety, in thrall to the oeuvre of Sarah Records. Even the title of the album, Recommended Record, is a throwback to the days when your local indie music emporium stocked 7" of the Top 100 singles in box shelving behind the counter. But if you thought a bit harder, you would consider the “It”, a hint that it is not a he or a she reciprocating that cuddle, it's an IT – an animal or an unspecified creature: perhaps one of Pete Fowler's phantasmagorical creations, or Sulley from Monsters Inc doling out a back-breaking clinch. Plus there's the cover – a series of interlocking multi-coloured triangles, not an anorak-wearing be-fringed couple blubbing over their Sea Urchins records next to a scooter.

So now we've clarified what It Hugs Back are not, what the hell are they? Well, they feature in their number Matthew Simms, a guitarist with Wire since 2011, but comparisons to the post-punk legends are also wide of the mark. In fact, the opening track on Recommended Record (the band's third longplayer, released on their own label, Safe and Sound Records) 'Sa Sa Sa Sails' nods in the direction of the band most associated with the aforementioned Pete Fowler, Super Furry Animals; a joyous burst of kaleidoscopic guitar pop with ebullient synths, rinky-dink pianos and a chorus dripping in “oooh oooh oooohs”.

It's a throw your windows open and celebrate life sort of a song – fuck Elbow, this is the sort of anthem I want soundtracking my summer festival experience. It ends abruptly and they're off, gleefully hopping across the genres of guitar music like an amphetamine-fuelled kangaroo – or if you want a musical equivalent, think the Boo Radleys circa- their schizoid, marauding 1996 album C'mon Kids – an underrated gem.

'Go Magic!' is a brilliant glam rocker with a pounding groove, razor-sharp riffs and a vocal delivered through a loudhailer. 'Sometimes' puts the breaks on, combining a gauzy, ethereal vocal with shoegaze guitars and an undulating synth line. On the Ronseal instrumental 'Piano Drone', a rapid drum machine rhythm and throbbing bassline underpin a subdued piano melody and synth effects, before the heavy metal monster 'Big Sighes' comes crashing in to the party clutching a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 and a snotty demeanour. On 'Teenage Hands' the band party like its 1991 and Alan McGee is hogging the stereo, all sighing vocals and frazzled, melodious riffs – imagine Yuck (RIP) with better hooks. 'Lower' is the unlikely love child of Keane and Oasis but sounds far better than that horrific analogy suggests – it basically means hook-laden indie rock with pianos. 'Waiting Room' is delightful, with aching, countrified harmonies and some exquisite guitar picking. The album stand-out is 'Skateboard Rhythm', an extended track that transforms from low-key folk-pop into a euphoric Krautrocking jam.

Clocking in at 35 minutes it's a breezy listen, but one that stays with you. The musicianship is excellent, the production spot on and, despite its restless nature, the album hangs together nicely. Calling your LP Recommended Record could be setting yourself up for a fall, but in this instance the title, like everything else on the album, is perfectly judged.

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