New Orleans duo Generationals coast into view with Heza, the follow-up to 2011’s Actor-Caster, and a bucket-load of “we’re just a couple of bros, man… yeah it’s out on cassette!” blogosphere-appeal.
Casting over the record just once, highlights that preceding release: ‘Put A Light On’ was undoubtedly the obvious single-choice from this set. A staple, sturdy chunk of indie-pop, that ticks nearly all the advert-soundtrack boxes: the chirpy structural bounce, quasi-catchy musical hooks and even the near-indecipherable verses – aside from the conveniently foregrounded song-title – that should ensure it fulfils the necessary requirement to be this years ‘Pumped Up Kicks-esque summer jam (a track coincidentally written by a former commercial jingle writer).
Financial security hopefully ensured, the rest of the LP, shows an admirable desire from the duo to change-up their sound as much as possible. Everything from shades of Archers of Loaf post-punk, The Feelies lo-fi power-pop, Beach Fossils surf-rock, and even snail’s pace white-boy reggae on ‘You Got Me’ rear their head, with the consequence being that even if they’re not piquing your interest one minute, by the switch-over Generationals will be doing their level-best to retain your interest.
All these different modalities are achieved through their self-described sound as ‘pop hooks through a melancholy prism’, and Hexa wholly fulfils that stylistic manifesto throughout: with the out-come that even the perkiest moments seem to have bags under their eyelids or a frog in the throats. But perhaps the main underlying reason the band are able to capture shades of all these sounds and feel comfortable with them, whilst maintaining the omni-present beating of a melancholy heart, is that there’s often a severe lack of character and charisma to the vocals. They’ll capture a sound, create some distinctive textures, tones and timbres (and they have a particular knack for stonking bass-lines as on ‘Say When’), but lyrics are simply treated like wallpaper, and are delivered with all the joy that putting up said wallpaper would inspire.
Equally, at the level of individual song-structure, many tracks seemingly start all at once or not at all, and with the notable exceptions of the aforementioned ‘Put A Light On’ and ‘Say When’, they don’t really find any gears to shift through. The unfortunate consequence is a near-complete drainage of the oft-underestimated capacity for “fun” in music. Brief snatches of snappy guitar-solos, found-sound samples, and the odd call-and-response chorus provide some promise and intrigue, but, particularly on the lengthier tracks, the vitality is extinguished by repetition or the weary vocal-delivery:.
Which all-in-all is a shame when such snap, crackle and pop seems pretty much the entire point of bands like this. If even the froth on your mocha-latte ushers a weary sigh from you, you’ve got problems.