Backtrack

Backtrack: Out Hud S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.

You can always keep going. You can always do more. One more word, one more mile, one more hour. It’s as good as it is bad, but as long as you’re moving there’s more to do/see/experience/freak out about.

Out Hud, for the brief time that they were a band, felt like the perfect soundtrack to the claustrophobic element of newfound adult freedom. The first time I heard S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D., I couldn’t figure out if I thought it was brooding or joyful. I guess it’s both, which is part of the allure of Out Hud. They were able to make songs that were as paranoid as they were happy, as heavy as they were pretty. They were an unsure band that soundtracked an unsure time, and as the world gets weirder and (seemingly) more apocalyptic, they feel even more vital. Or at least equally as vital as when they were a band.

As much as S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. sounds as relevant today as it did when it came out, Out Hud still manage to be a band of their time. They were part of a New York that was excising the last of its gritty demons even after popular opinion was that it was a sanitized version of itself already. But that sort of speaks to Out Hud’s general greatness anyway. Their songs are circular, hypnotic. Each one is built on a steady rhythm that piles and echoes on top if itself, with the unexpected addition of cello adding emotional weight. It’s tense music, just slightly darker than a brief listen would reveal. New York is always cleaner than it was, but there are always pockets of weirdness too, which is maybe why Out Hud continue to make so much sense today. Listening to the cascading keys and squelching synths on “My Two Nads (Dad Reprise)” — we’ll get to that title in a minute — they’d be fine playing any vaguely illicit warehouse show from 2002 ’til infinity.

I’m not really sure why Out Hud aren’t talked about in the same breath as bands like Black Dice or LCD Soundsystem or Liars (who consistently release genre-defying records, as discussed last week). Maybe it’s that they just did two albums and then called it quits. Maybe it’s that those albums hid emotional heaviness behind plainspoken, often hilarious titles like “The L Train is a Swell Train And I Don’t Want To Hear You Indies Complain,” which is a 12-minute epic that manages to combine stormy cello with lounge jazz keys. That title speaks to a somewhat lost New York. To a time when it wasn’t weird to complain about having to take the L train into Williamsburg, or really about having to go to Brooklyn at all. That mindset is all but eradicated, but the general idea is there still: New York is as big or as small as you want it to be. It’s as hectic or as calm as you make it. You can fight against the city’s flow or you can just ride with it. There’s no wrong answer.

Listening to S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. now feels exciting because it still feels like a secret. Out Hud will always be that band that everyone loves like its their own. For those that were in New York when it was released, it speaks to a certain level of uncertainty at the direction of a city. For those that weren’t, well, the beauty of it is that New York isn’t the only city suffering a permanent identity crisis. So is just about everywhere else. S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is an album for the uncertain times we perpetually inhabit. It’s an ominous, funny and often very deep record. I’m not sure a band that clearly cared so much could make anything else.

Tags: Out Hud