Warp Records used to be dominated by challenging electronica like Aphex Twin and Autechre. Over the past few years though, the label has nudged its roster slightly to the right of leftfield to include nominally ‘rock’ acts like Grizzly Bear and Max�mo Park. Even with that in mind, it’s still a shock to hear the opening two minutes of Young Aren’t Young, the first track on the debut album by Warp’s latest signees, The Hundred In The Hands. Hi-hats! Funky guitar! A pleasant female voice! A beat you can dance to! In short: this is the least Warp-y Warp release yet.
The Hundred In The Hands are a duo from New York comprising Eleanore Everdell (she of the pleasant voice) and Jason Friedman (formerly of alt-folk nearlymen The Boggs). Together, they make pop music informed by house, post-punk and shoegaze. They end up pitching a tent somewhere equidistant between Yeah Yeah Yeahs, School Of Seven Bells and The Long Blondes.
The above-mentioned Young Aren’t Young and the single Pigeons are sleek examples of dashingly voguish electronic pop, every single component of the band’s sound working with bionic precision. Lovesick (Once Again), with its scratchy post-punk guitar and lurching chorus, proves they’re not reliant on high tempos to be effective. Commotion edges out those tracks as the best thing here and, in the right hands, it could be a hit. There’s a brilliant moment of high drama on the bridge, as Everdell’s vocals grow increasingly agitated as they’re subsumed by a wave of guitars, before the disco-ready chorus kicks in. One can practically see the light show and hand gestures when this is performed live.
All of these highlights are crammed into a strong first half, the quality levels of which aren’t maintained in the record’s closing stages. While Commotion sounded like it deserved to be blasted out across a packed stadium, Dressed In Dresden and Last City sound like support act material. The guitars of Gold Blood are unpalatably jagged, needlessly scuffing the smooth edges found on the rest of the album.
All of which means that this can’t help but feel like a very good EP nestled within a merely good LP. But, if The Hundred In The Hands are to produce an unqualified success next time round, they needn’t do anything drastically different. If they use the likes of Commotion as their blueprint, the path to pop nirvana will be an easy one.