After a 14-year hiatus from the studio, Hot Snakes kick down the door with their new album, Jericho Sirens. The record blasts out of the speakers with the furious "I Need a Doctor," inspired by Rick Froberg's experience needing a doctor's note in order to miss an important work function. Throughout Jericho Sirens, Froberg commiserates with the frustration and torrential apathy that seems to be a fixture in our daily lives, while also reminding us that we have no fucking clue.
"Songs like ‘Death Camp Fantasy' and ‘Jericho Sirens' are about that," he says. "No matter where you look, there're always people saying the world's about to end. Every movie is a disaster movie. I'm super fascinated by it. It is hysterical, and it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. It snowballs, like feedback, or my balls on the windshield."
Musically, the album incorporates the most extreme fringes of the Hot Snakes sound (the vein-bulging, 78-second "Why Don't It Sink In?" the manic, Asian Blues on speed of "Having Another?"), while staying true to longstanding influences such as the Wipers, Dead Moon, Michael Jackson, and Suicide on propulsive tracks such as "Six Wave Hold-Down." Other moments like the choruses of "Jericho Sirens" and "Psychoactive" nod to Status Quo and AC/DC.
Our take: When most bands come back from a long absence or a break-up, they’re content to deliver something that’s simply “good enough,” if not outright bad. Perhaps it’s that bands tend to tepidly imitate their old material rather than trying to push past it, or maybe it’s because they’re not that invested in their “old” project and simply don’t try hard enough. Regardless, none of those are problems with the new Hot Snakes album, as Jericho Sirens , their first album in 14 years, is as good as or better than any of their other three full-lengths. While there are nods to their older material (like the touches of melodica peppered throughout the record) and plenty of songs that are very much in the vein of their old stuff (like “Six Wave Hold-Down” or the anthemic title track), much of the album seems like the band is pushing themselves to play harder, faster, and weirder than they did on their previous records. Whether it’s the blistering fast changes on “Why Don’t It Sink In,” or the wild, Big Black-esque riffing on “Having Another?,” the baroque density of the riffing and the tightness and complexity of the playing (with many of the songs in mega-quirky time signatures) is truly next-level. It’s intellectually interesting, but it’s also viscerally exciting to listen to a band blow through musical boundaries and just let it rip like this. Yeah, they’re pretty much just showing off, but it’s more like someone showing off by driving their car dangerously close to the edge of a cliff than the stiff formalism of a classical music recital. Jericho Sirens is a thrilling listen, and one of the most genuinely exciting records to appear so far in 2018.