It was all of about a year ago that I handed out my first review to this band, back when they were still called Chickenhawk. Their album Modern Bodies got a fully-deserved 5/5, its spastic blend of influences marking them out as a very special proposition indeed, and I’ve followed the band avidly since to see where they went from there.
Well, the intervening time has been more than good to them – Mindhammers sees their last release for the Brew Records label before they move to Fierce Panda (home to Art Brut, Idlewild, Winnebago Deal and others), and they’ve just hit the road with the ever-wonderful Ginger Wildheart to shove their material into a whole new selection of faces around the UK. On the up and up then, but is Mindhammers still up to their insanely high standards?
Delightfully, yes it is – some of the jittering insanity is gone from their sound of old, but it’s more than adequately replaced with a more considered, mature edge to the songwriting. Lead track ‘Crack Another One’ displays this perfectly – Hawk Eyes‘ keen melodic nous jostles for attention against their warped rhythmic sensibility before breaking out into a massive screamalong chorus that in a more sensible world would see them troubling daytime radio play. There’s rakes more of this too – see the title track in particular for a hook that could snare the biggest pop fan without sacrificing the abrasiveness and outright riff worship that so defines the band.
Elsewhere on the EP we see flashes of a darker side to Hawk Eyes – closing track ‘Hidden Hound’ recalls MIA Patton project Tomahawk through its verses and choruses, for example, and there’s a decidedly more unsettled feel to some of the lyrics than previously. Again though, this serves in place of a lot of the musical unease from previous releases so rather than feeling out of place, it’s just shifting the focus of your disturbance slightly. All of this change, however, suits the band perfectly, in that none of it detracts at all from what were always their core strengths – their keen ear for twisted melody, top-drawer songwriting, and above all a clutch of massive riffs. Here’s hoping the next full album appears sooner rather than later.