Even at their angriest, Hypoluxo make post-punk fun. Quite a few of the bands carrying the torch for angular indie rock project a harsh Cold War veneer borrowed from predecessors who helped shape the genre in the 1980s. That frigid apocalyptic vibe can yield great music, but at its bleakest it often has me wanting to find these serious artistes and sing them Sleater-Kinney’s “You’re No Rock ‘N’ Roll Fun.” So it’s nice that some performers of this ilk remember how much joie de vivre Devo used to funnel into their jittery grooves, how absurdly quirky Talking Heads let themselves be, and what wild guitar heroism Television shepherded into CBGB under the guise of punk.
Am I saying Hypoluxo sound more like the guitar-powered 1970s than the synth-saturated 1980s? I am, and they do. But just as much if not more, they sound like the early 2000s, when so many indie bands were mining that formative post-punk era, filtering the classics into trendy dance-rock and poppy fare fit for radio breakthroughs and O.C. soundtracks. They also evoke several underground favorites of the 2010s, a wave of approachable but not particularly crossover-minded bands that helped to keep guitar-driven indie rock alive while so much of the genre played around with synth-pop and R&B and tried to find its way into the mainstream.
Rather than honing in on one particular form of nostalgia, Hypoluxo’s aesthetic is an amalgamation of many appealing eras. On the Brooklyn band’s new self-titled album, their third, I hear flashes of bright, mechanistic retro pop-rock like the Strokes, the Futureheads, and Phoenix circa It’s Never Been Like That. I hear Modest Mouse and Wolf Parade’s combination of feral intensity and howl-along accessibility. I hear the gleaming arpeggiated riffs of Beach Fossils and the roughshod directness of Parquet Courts and the hypnotic lockstep of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and especially Omni’s tightly coiled herky-jerky post-punk throwbacks. These dudes are model students of the dudes that came before them.
Despite how readily Hypoluxo send me scurrying for reference points, the sheer quantity of those comparisons speaks to what a well-defined yet versatile sound the band has developed. The rhythm section of Marco Ocampo and bassist Eric Jaso is tight yet playful, bouncing and bobbing while Cameron Riordan and Samuel Cogen send guitar riffs busily snaking across the mix. Cogen bellows and barks atop the nervous rumble, lending bite to music that might otherwise pass for pop. They skillfully assemble their songs so that wistful chord progressions and pretty vocal lines exist in tension with rubbery funk bass lines and violently slicing guitar melodies. There’s an explosive energy to it, an electricity that both animates Hypoluxo and keeps them constantly teetering on the brink of collapse.
Cogen often writes about the perils of working-class life in modern-day America. He says the propulsive and breathtakingly gorgeous “Shock” is about “not being able to escape the things that scare you the most,” namely COVID-19 and the eviction crisis it set in motion. Early single and highlight “Nimbus” — which builds from nervy new wave verses to a wide-open anthemic chorus I hope to shout along with at a Hypoluxo concert someday — is about Cogen’s job as a bike courier in Manhattan during winter, an experience that left him huddled soaking wet in an Upper West Side bar catching side-eye from its high-powered business clientele. “They’ll make it up as they go!” he yells, cursing untrustworthy weather forecasters as he rhymes “Never decide what’s in the air” with “Never decide what to wear.” It’s probably the greatest meteorologist diss track of all time.
Closing track “Sweat,” meanwhile, is a lament about NYC’s oppressive summer heat: “When the sun goes down/ Iʼll be a man about town/ Iʼll be myself again.” Cogen is able to write compellingly about the goddamn weather, and he’s just as adept with food imagery. Sometimes it’s literal, as on the incessant “Tenderloin,” which finds Cohen contemptuously informing the song’s protagonist, “You’ve fallen on the floor turning purple it plain sight/ Choking on a tenderloin that was cooked just right.” And sometimes it’s more symbolic, as on “Appetizer,” where Cogen pretends his false-start career is just a prologue to something greater: “It’s just a lie I tell myself/ To break free from it all.”
The first single from Hypoluxo was “Ridden,” an anxious joyride across British Isles touchpoints from Wire and Buzzcocks to Orange Juice and Felt. “Tell me right now/ Tell me all the things that you see in me/ Can they be explained through the TV/ ‘Cause thatʼs all I know,” Cogen sings. “Never tried my best/ Everyone someday needs to leave the nest/ All I want to do is sit and rest/ This world feels like a test.” Cogen says “Ridden” is about a time when Hypoluxo’s old label had abandoned them and they were thinking about breaking up. In this moment of apathy and hopelessness, Allen Tate of San Fermin stepped in with encouragement that kept them pressing forward. “But I feel Im stronger than that, I feel I’m better than that!” Cogen concludes in the refrain, triumphantly pushing past his negativity toward something greater. With this album, he and his bandmates have achieved it.
Hypoluxo is out 11/20 on Flexible Distribution. Pre-order it here.
Other notable releases out this week:
• Megan Thee Stallion’s as-yet-unheard official debut album Good News.
• The War On Drugs’ LIVE DRUGS.
• King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s new studio effort K.G. plus Live In SF ’16.
• Cabaret Voltaire’s first album in 26 years, Shadow Of Fear.
• BTS’ first all-English album BE.
• Kali Uchis’ Spanish-language Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞.
• The Bug and Dis Fig’s In Blue.
• Phoebe Bridgers’ orchestral Copycat Killer EP.
• Dirty Projectors’ Ring Road EP, completing their 5EPs box set.
• Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Chastity Belt’s Annie Truscott’s debut EP as Routine, And Other Things.
• Hannah’s Little Sister’s EP.mp3.
• Shygirl’s ALIAS EP.
• Neil Young’s Archives Volume 2: 1972-1976.
• John Fogerty’s Fogerty’s Factory.
• Jeezy’s The Recession 2.
• Badge Époque Ensemble’s Self Help.
• Partner’s Never Give Up.
• Das Body’s Peregrine.
• Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas’ III.
• Lisa/Liza’s Shelter Of A Song.
• Liturgy’s Origin Of The Alimonies.
• Buzzy Lee’s Spoiled Love.
• 5 Billion In Diamonds’ Divine Accidents.
• The Cribs’ Night Network.
• Battles’ Juice B Mixed EP.
• Refused’s The Malignant Fire EP.
• Tank And The Bangas’ Friend Goals EP.