The Hat Madder - Rogue Notes and Phones

by Fredric Paulson
(Brooklyn, NY)

"Rogue Notes and Phones," the latest release from Lansing, Michigan based indie band The Hat Madder, takes a few tracks to build steam, but when it gets going it's an enjoyable, if imperfect, ride.

Opening up with the instrumental "This Shady Little Neighborhood," the album sets a sinister tone with riffs lifted from the Dischord catalog and big, pummeling drums. This vibe is continued with "The Streets Don't Lie," a driving rock tune littered with distorted vocals and Sonic Youth-style guitar noise.

The song essentially peters out, and I found my mind starting to wander, until the opening strains of song number three "Let the Good Times Last." This cliched title is misleading, as the song is full of great pop hooks, engaging vocals with lush backing harmonies, and interesting musical changes.

After a brief interlude track, programmed drum beats lead the way into "Let You Down," which follows the template of "Let the Good Times Last" down to the deceptively predictable song title, with the backing vocals in particular lifting the song into more memorable territory. The album picks up momentum with "There Is No Us," which combines the demented powerpop of the last few tunes with the post-punk nastiness of the first two tracks.

This combination of the albums musical themes lands the listener at just the right spot for the albums standout track "Dreamsicle."

Carried by a driving guitar riff that evokes both Weezer's "Hash Pipe" and The Pixies' "Debaser," the song has the hookiest chorus of the record, so catchy that the listener might not pick up on the obvious cocaine references in the lyrics. The song is tinged with regret amidst its overall jubilant vibe, leaving the listener with the impression that the party is winding down and the consequences of the night are starting to be felt ("Let the Good Times Last" indeed!).

"Dreamsicle" is followed by "Salt and Lime Wastes Time," which does a credible job of mimicking the Dinosaur Jr. songbook, but mostly just serves to wind down the record from the rush of "Dreamsicle."

An unlisted ninth track closes out the album - it's a cover of "Jerkin' Back and Forth" by Devo that completely caught me off guard, but the band's take on it manages to capture the energy of their best moments while giving the song a faithful if more guitar driven reading.

The overall impression of "Rogue Notes and Phones" is positive.

The production is great, with big, real-sounding (thank you!) drums and a washy mix of guitars and keyboards that are never muddy nor distracting from the vocals. The band excels on the pop material, but the noisier material isn't bad, at worst its merely uninteresting.

The overall execution of the album is done well; attention was clearly paid to the details of the record's sequencing. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes it's a great record to keep in the car, but if you can only add two songs to your Ipod make sure you get "Let the Good Times Last" and "Dreamsicle."

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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About The Writer

My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.

If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.

Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot. 

I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.