There are multiple possibilities we can read into exclamation point in singer/songwriter Hank Close’s clever branding moniker Hank (!). The veteran singer-songwriter’s official bio mentions that he paved the way for his furious, blistering soulful blast in our face (most of the time, anyway) debut album Guilty Pleasures (Are The Best Ones) with lengthy stints these past years in a prog rock band (Absent Boundaries) and folk rock duo (Hank & Brendan).
But damn if they have a presence on streaming, so in essence – and totally worth emphasizing with a (!) – this raw and raucous (“rawcous”?) garage rock vibin’ collection is for many of us, then the first time we’ve heard this casual, organic and high-octane emotional superhero do this thing. From the fussy fiery bangin’ and clangin’ of the distorted guitars and powerful vocals of the perfectly titled “Twitch” through the exotic, sitar-tinged drone dynamite of “Mood Swings,” Hank’s wild, busy and ultra-adventurous fusion of hypnotic, often elongated phrasings, blistering runs and playful jangles is worth a few loud shout outs as well.
Though the playful janglers “Lady St.” and “Why Go” and the airy, atmospheric “Don’t Go Out” provide melodic respite in just the right spots, as a whole this is sometimes a challenging and intense listen – certainly by design, as Hank (!) is grabbing us with his propulsive expressions most of the time. Whatever one thinks of his often brash music and somewhat monotone vocals, everyone will embrace the offbeat poetic grandeur of his lyrics, which tap into many narratives we can universally relate to.
The most compelling of these is “Stupid Teens,” which ruminates ambiguously on the volatile emotional aftermath of a breakup, and the album’s most heartfelt and seemingly sincere gem, “Friend is Gone,” a painful but beautifully rendered meditative ballad reflecting on the sorrow in the wake of a painful loss (in this case, of his beloved dog, but it can apply to anyone’s time of grieving). The song is tucked deep into the tracking, but it’s the one you’ll be listening to and feeling over and over again.