Right. Ahem. *opens press release* Kent foursome It Hugs Back have been “making their soft-centred dream pop back in early 2006”. They also “switch between joyous pop-punk delight and delicate melancholia in a heartbeat”. And last but by no means least, they “melt layers of fuzzy vocals and guitars into their reassuring blend of endearing shoegaze and heart-on-sleeves vulnerability”. Bless.
If you hadn’t already noticed by now, It Hugs Back are a Very Nice Band. Incredibly, wonderfully lovely. Jaw-droppingly earnest. They post blogs about cheering themselves up after bad gigs by buying new organs. They love Christmas. They toured with Lowgold, for Chrissakes. It’s not that any of these things are bad at all – in fact, there is an innocent, wide-eyed beauty about It Hugs Back that is rather refreshing. But we just thought you should know, in case you were expecting a spot of Dananananaykroyd-style fight pop. (Although they did, remarkably, support Holy Fuck on a recent European tour – we’d have loved to have seen their blog on that jaunt.)
Drawing their influences from the fuzziness of My Bloody Valentine‘s more-blissed out moments, Wilco‘s lush experimentalism and a spot of Brendan Benson‘s low-fi slacker power pop, It Hugs Back have been snapped up by 4AD, and with good reason. While Inside Your Guitar is a slightly messy, unfocussed record by a band still maturing into their sound, but one that hints at great things to come.
Take record opener Q, for example. Not many debutant British pop acts would have the out-and-out balls to open their account with a slow, feedback drenched love song that echoes long-forgotten American indie act Wheat, but IHB pull it off with aplomb. Imagine a ‘nice’ version of Wilco’s I Am Trying To Break Your Heart and you’ll not be far off.
There are those that will call IHB unbearably twee, and with their penchant for jaunty keyboard melodies and completely indecipherable lyrics about (and this is a bit of a stab in the dark here) young love and heartbreak. With this, and their frankly horribly saccharine name, there is a hint of Belle and Sebastian without the ironic winks. But IHB have got a good pop head on their shoulders, and more bite than you’d expect.
Back Down sounds, spectacularly, like Teenage Fanclub covering songs from Loveless, while Now+Again could have waltzed onto Broken Social Scene‘s poppiest record, You Forget it in People. While the band wear their influences on their sleeves, they’re rarely derivative.
All the fuzziness does get a little samey towards the end of the album, and even some ‘rawk’ interludes can’t save Look Out from melting into the admittedly beguiling background. But this is a confident debut by a band that can only keep on improving. Maybe “reassuring” and “endearing” really is the new rock n’ roll.