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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

HNMTF Releases Gladiator-Style Smackdown!

This week, Durham's own Hammer No More The Fingers released its first full-length album, "Looking For Bruce" available on Churchkey Records. This album builds on the music from their self-titled EP, including many of the tracks off the debut, but with a bit more production, and the benefit of many more performances. I caught up with lead man Duncan Webster on the origins of the album's curious title. He fills us in on the LFB story!

We were making an eleven hour late night drive from Richmond, VA to Bloomington, IN to play a show in March 2008. We passed through the town of Nitro, WV. At the same time I got a call from a friend who had some good news, so I replied "That is so nitro!"

A week later, we started jamming on the song that is now "Nitro". It sounded like it should be called "Nitro", just because of the fast paced, sort of cheesy, but bad ass rhythm. The whole passing through Nitro, WV and saying "That is so Nitro!" was still on the mind as well. I thought it might be funny to actually make the lyrics be about Nitro, the somewhat forgotten American Gladiator. I did some research on him, and he turns out to be a very active person. He mentors at a teen center, he just wrote and published an autobiography, he's a consultant on the new "American Gladiators". But most of all he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in an action packed Kung Fu movie called "Looking for Bruce". We've been looking for a copy of the movie for a year now--no luck. It remains a mystery. The whole thing we have seen is a trailer that Dan "Nitro" Clark posted on YouTube (That's Nitro's full name). We decided to call our album "Looking for Bruce" as a tribute to the man, and also to poke fun at us never being able to find a copy of the movie. We're really into campy B Movies as well. Somehow he found out what we were calling our album. He got in touch with us. He seems like a really cool guy. He sent us his new book. We haven't yet had the guts to ask him to send us a copy of you know what. We've made plans to take him out to lunch if we ever make it out to LA.

That's quite a story! Let me just say that this album is absolutely fantastic, combining the band's upbeat but intricate writing style, tight musicianship, witty and occasionally hilarious lyrics, and catchy hooks galore. It is rare that an album bears repeated listens within the same day, but with LFB I literally wanted to play it over and over. It's like Chinese food--you eat an entire meal, and in another hour you are ready to go back to the buffet! Mmmm... buffet... What were we talking about?

Musically, I can hear several stand-out qualities. Outstanding use of dynamics, variations on themes, vocal harmonies, and interesting rhythms make for an great ride. At the end of "Radiation", for example, we get a taste of polymeter, a phase-shifted guitar riff in 6/8 against the main 4/4 beat. It is difficult to choose just one "hit single"--there is not one weak track on the album, but "Shutterbug" is one of the strongest, inspired by Webster's one-time relationship with rock icon Patti Smith's daughter when the band lived for a time in New York City.

If "Looking For Bruce" were matched up to just about any other release I have heard lately in an "American Gladiator" style competition, they would probably win the gold.

You can catch Hammer No More The Fingers opening for Superchunk at Cat's Cradle on April 15th, as they continue with many more performances in North Carolina, Virginia, DC, and Maryland.

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