By Alex Szeptycki
Hinds’ shortcomings are readily apparent, but their infectious energy is undeniable.
Over the course of their first two LPs, the shortcomings of Spanish rockers Hinds were readily apparent. Their fuzzy and vibrant brand of rock is not all that original. Likewise, their lyrics are one-dimensional, confined to the topics of raucous partying and fast-paced love. Still, their music’s infectious energy is undeniable; Hinds, at their best, can be wham-bam, powerful, and more than a little self aware of their antic callowness. On their third LP, The Prettiest Curse, Hinds hasn’t grown up and isn’t worried about it: they are still having a great time.
The Prettiest Curse does serve up the biggest stylistic change for Hinds yet, as the band augments their sound with a synthy, poppier approach. Still, they stick true to their original formula, a scuzzed out, reckless brand of garage rock that is not fresh (the band claims The Black Lips and The Strokes as some of their influences — and it shows). On this record they have embraced poppier, cleaner sounds, most notably with the addition of synths. The opening track, “Good Bad Times” illustrates this stab at something new; glossy synths compliment a down-tempo, syncopated guitar riff, as vocalists Ana Perrote and Carlota Cosials sing of a relationship beginning to go south. “You’re turning bad times into good times,” they lament. The song also gives us the pair singing in Spanish, a choice the band makes for many songs on the album. It’s a small touch, but it goes a long way in developing the band’s identity.
At times, this new synth pop approach allows Hinds to slow the pace down. On previous efforts, their breakneck vigor made it hard for them to drop tempo without making it feel as if the song was falling off a cliff. Here, the fuller, cleaner sound on (some of) The Prettiest Curse encourages … more nuance. “Riding Solo” is a slinky number about being single and burned out. A plodding bass line drives the song forward as high pitched synths echo round and about, accompanied by the lyrics “I’m out of conversations, I’m on my private jet lag/While everyone is sleeping, I still haven’t closed my tab.” The singer hangs on every line, dragging from one blues sentiment to the next — her fatigue is palpable. The choral cries of “I’ve been riding solo” are tinged with resignation. The fuzzy, brittle guitar solo that follows the chorus adds to the song’s downbeat aura.
But this less infectious approach comes with its own pitfalls. Some songs lack the verve that was a constant in Hinds’ early work and they could have benefited from some added gritty vim and vigor. On “The Play,” for example, the enervated part of the production seems to sap the song of vitality. Yes the tune explodes with the arrival of the chorus’s distorted sound, but the two moods don’t mesh. Songs like these would have been improved with the injection of a more consistent dynamism.
That is not to say that Hinds has been reborn; The Prettiest Curse is still heavily populated with anthemic, hooky rock songs. Take “Just like Kids (Miau),” a sneering retort to any man who has ever offered Hinds a tip. “Can I tell you something about you and your band/Cause I’m sure you’d love to listen to my advice” is met with a derisive “Dude, do I even know you?” The chorus is vintage Hinds. It’s a sunburnt and drunk take on “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da,” a comeback bursting with carefree, if juvenile, exuberance.
One of Hinds’ greatest attributes is their ability to write catchy hooks. “Waiting for You,” another upbeat breakup song, is an album highlight. It begins quiet, as Perrote and Cosials take turns bemoaning a collapsing relationship over a subdued acoustic guitar. The momentum builds, before it rolls out of control as the band breaks into the chorus. Guitar riffs cascade around each other as the band sings “All of me, thought I could take it/Half of me thought I could save it.” The band’s appealing vocal chemistry brightens up the embattled lyrics.
Indeed, Hinds are at their best when singing about things that are falling apart. They are experts on spotting just where the cracks are beginning to show. “Burn,” for example, contains some of Hinds’ best lyrics to date. Perrote and Cosials sound rebellious and excited, but lines like “I’m juggling tequila shots, sadness, and reggaeton” strike arresting notes of instability. The choral screams of “Take my heart ’cause I don’t want it/Teach me how to feel without it” smack of reckless abandon, suggesting that moments of sadness are not going to stop the party. To top it all off, the excellent guitar solo teeters on the edge of breakdown, threatening to unravel into a mess of distortion. The track is breathtaking — a compelling earful.
The album’s weakest moments come when the Hinds’ vivacity gives way to a more half-baked approach. The closer, “This Moment Forever,” is the album’s weakest track. The tune’s slow pace, simple instrumental, and gutless vocals create aural anemia. The tune fails to be convincingly balladic. Elsewhere, “Come Back and Love Me” suffers from similar problems. The Spanish guitar passage that opens the tune is a nice touch — at first. But it becomes repetitious, never developing beyond being much more than a dab of local color. The song never goes anywhere.
Hinds’ attitude is perhaps best summed up on “Burn.” The band admonishes listeners: “We didn’t come here to please you my dear.” Yes, the band has its fair share of flaws — but they don’t care. And should they? Should you? They’re having a hell of a good time, so critics be damned. Sometimes, a hefty dose of fun is all you need.
Alex Szeptycki is a student from Charlottesville, Virginia, currently studying at Stanford University. He is majoring in American Studies, with a focus in Contemporary Art and Media. He is currently finishing up his senior year, before looking to pursue a career in writing or the arts.