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Album review: Hank Wood & The Hammerheads Self-Titled

I’ve been watching Hank & co. for a few years now, and though their live shows have always been super energetic and powerful, I always wondered why they didn’t have better recordings. 2012’s Go Home and 2014’s Stay Home are both decent, passable punk, but kinda muddy and muddled, and as gestures all on their lonely don’t really do much lyrically or musically to stand out from the crowd. That was four years ago, and a lot can happen.

This new record both lives up to and surpasses the potential hinted at by their live shows—it’s the best new punk record I’ve heard in years, a solid slab of raw steak-hitting-you-in-the-face from end to end, great songwriting, great playing and really, really great, fully-realized singing that makes me wanna bite the top off a can of beer and hit a LinkNYC with a sock full of quarters.

Hank’s voice here is full throated, fully realized. He sounds shredded, at times kinda John Brennon/Laughing Hyenas, but more percussive, with a demoniac vehemence you don’t hear very often.

The song writing is skillful and assured, phrasing is perfect, unexpectedly useful keyboards (at moments Al Kooper-y, other times almost sarcastic) and guitars, really moving drumming – just super solid all around, a bright crisp recording with just the right amount of seam showing. Obsessed with death, loneliness and failure like all good punk should be, the lyrics are simple and elemental, a blend of don’t-give-a-fuck and real sentiment. “Love Is a Cold White Tile:” “Let me just lay here for a while,” or “What the fuck am I suppose to do/ I’m alone even when I’m next to you.” There’s something refreshing about a band that clearly isn’t thinking ‘how can we throw everyone off’ but rather just concentrating on making great songs and playing them with total commitment. They didn’t re-invent the spill-proof lid here, they just made a really, really good one.

Wait – who is Somer?! What a great animator! A key part of the package is the cut-out animation video for “You Wanna Die” with floating snakes and graveyards so bright and colorful so sickeningly pure. It’s probably the punchiest song on the record and the video takes it to another dimension!

I’ve heard you bitch before about missing out on all the cool shit, if only you’d been alive during the Dead Boys or Shaggs or whatever—well now here’s your chance to be alive when something is actually happening.

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