splendid > reviews > 8/11/2005
The Very Hush Hush
The Very Hush Hush
Mourir C'est Facile
Sao Bento

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Slow Destroyer"

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It's hard to say whether it's good for music in general, but it's an undeniable fact: many bands formed in the last few years are hard to pigeonhole within a sub-genre. It's easy to say that this is a net positive development, and indeed, it has resulted in any number of exciting musical experiments -- but in the wrong hands, a lack of genre restriction can result in an unformed mass of potential songs, smashed together without rhyme, reason or aesthetic. Speed metal and prog, synth-pop and hip-hop; in the wrong hands, they're all smooshed into a green, vaguely nauseating glop that produces neither memorable songs nor interesting innovation.

Fortunately, then, The Very Hush Hush's hands are not the wrong ones. Grant Hazard Outerbridge and Peter Bo Rappmund (either these are pseudonyms, or these guys are superhero alter-egos) are classically trained pianists, though the tutelage that shows through most clearly in Mourir is the education they received from rock 'n' roll luminaries like Kevin Shields. A distinct shoe-gazerishness permeates many of the Hush Hush's tracks, and there's more than a hint of electroclash on occasion. On more expansive efforts, like the six minute-plus "The City Light", the duo can swing into chamber pop territory, and there's a post-rock sensibility to the way they handle some of their musical textures. Still, you'll never feel as if they're overreaching or trying too hard. The effect of their scattershot approach to musical ideas is similar to that of a painter mixing a necessary hue on his palette: sure, it can be disconcerting to hear "Slow Destroyer"'s Faint-like keyboard line after the susurrant synth washes of opener "Forever", but there's nothing jarring about their inclusion within that song.

Sure, there are lyrics, but they're not the main event. The Very Hush Hush treat their lyrics more as an instrument than as a means through which to convey stories or emotionally fraught states of mind. One of Mourir's most effective tracks, "Love, Like Love", buries the lyrics deep within a mix of roiling guitar fuzz, ride cymbals and bell-tone synths; the lyrics are laid out in the CD booklet, but it's not really necessary to know precisely what they're singing in order to pick up on the track's quietly angry, uncomfortably resigned vibe.

The Very Hush Hush aren't batting 1000 here. One of the album's longest tracks, "The Outskirts", is also one of its least inspired, dropping the synth washes and the interesting textures that enliven most of Mourir in favor of some pretty standard-sounding indie mopery. Regardless, though, these guys have a great deal going for them, not least of which is their relative fearlessness in the face of indie music fans' tendency to define the music they love in narrow, constrictive sub-genres.



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