Hands Off Gretel have just released their new album. Jason Soper reviews it and catches them live on their current tour. Here are his thoughts.
Hands Off Gretel have seemingly come out of nowhere in the last few months, to my ears at least. The release of a stunning debut album will surely put them everywhere in months to come though. Unashamedly wearing their Grunge/Riot Grrrl influences on their sleeves…..where there’s room among the felt-tipped pen slogans anyways!
Despite a couple of line-up changes, Sam, Joe, Sean and Lauren sound like they have played together since day one, opener Queen Universe is driven by Sam’s drums, for the first time but definitely not for the last time on this album, with Lauren’s vocals lulling us into a sense of security, which is blown away when she let’s loose and announces she is, in fact, The Queen Of The Universe. I aint arguing!
One-Eyed Girl was one of the first songs I heard, pre-album release, it’s Joe’s (bass) turn to get the show on the road this time and is probably one of HOG’s most accessible songs, at the same time, it will get the head banging with Lauren proving, once again, how easy she finds it to go from voice of an angel, to scream of a (she)devil!
Bad Egg is next up. This one never fails to remind me of L7, undoubtedly another influence on the band and is a more subdued, darker sound before a chorus that I can see/hear an audience bouncing and singing along to.
Teethin is a pretty straight-forward 3 minutes-plus which may bring to mind Nirvana to listeners. They were long gone by the time 199o Lauren was born but clearly left a lasting impression on her, as with a ton of others out there.
Little Man takes the pace down again, Joe’s bass is the underlying constant here, working well with a more restrained, but no less effective, Sam on drums and Sean’s subtle guitar, not so in your face.
Always Right picks the tempo right up again, punk-driven, Lauren’s vocals spitting vitriol, while don’t underestimate her rhythm guitar playing all through this album, allowing Sean to go mental when the need arises……and it seemingly arises a fair bit on this album!
World Against She is another song that brings to my mind L7, not a bad thing whatsoever. One of Lauren’s best vocal performances on this album, in my opinion and along with some more great rhythm guitar, and a rock solid rhythm section it really does give the song every chance to succeed.
Oh Shit is probably the second song I heard of HOG’s, again a chorus that will have the crowd happily eating out of Lauren’s hands! Undoubtedly a live favourite already. All you need to know is ‘OHHHHHHHHHH SHIT!’.
Under The Bed is my favourite song on the album and has been since I first heard the album. Nothing complicated about a song that rocks at apace with yet more punk attitude and was very glad to hear it live at the Southampton gig recently (more about that at the end though!).
Eating Simon appears to be about eating someone….probably called Simon! It is the longest song on the album and, again, is a slightly slower, darker vibe, as possible expected with such a title!
Plasters is probably the song that took the longest for me to ‘get’. Introducing piano on this song, it doesn’t lack in intensity in either the lyrics or music, Lauren’s voice, while not full-on in your face as per previous songs is still full of angry emotion.
Push The Girl is probably Lauren at her most restrained on this album and with Sean’s guitars distortion-free for the most part here it does offer up a different dynamic to the rest of the album, it still works a treat and is still as attitude-driven but is an interesting wind-down.
Awfully Miserable is the second longest song, of the 13, on the album to finish with. The first 2 minutes of this one is Sean playing clean with Lauren singing sweetly once again, before the tempo picks up with Lauren requesting some kind soul to ‘bash my brains out’! The song winds down again as it started with an unusually (for this album) subdued ending but strangely appropriate. I found myself finally exhaling after listening to the album again after being immersed in it.
As mentioned at the start HOG don’t try to hide their influences, they are there for all to see, but the difference between a blatant rip-off and this lot are several:
Songs – They have a load of ’em, good ones aswell, with Lauren, despite being only 19, having a ton of experience in the music biz, writing and performing her own stuff for several years, it’s all out there on YouTube for you to check out. She’s not a one-trick pony as this album clearly shows.
Band – A group of musicians who fit each other like a glove, all standing out above Lauren’s undoubted and obvious talent on this album at various times. This isn’t a Lauren Tate solo album with a backing band, this is a proper band to take notice of.
Live – In my opinion, a great album is all well and good, but it’s live that matters most. I saw them at Talking Heads recently and they were stunning, despite a drummer playing with broken fingers and various members suffering from various cold-flu bugs. They were tight, sounded great yet raw, Sean is worth the ticket to see live by himself! Joe and Sam are a great rhythm section and, of course, Lauren is not exactly uneasy on the eye! THAT smile, the dress, the hair, she rocks the rhythm guitar……oh, and the voice, did i mention her voice?
And very cool people with time for their fans too. Definitely worth checking out live. Do it.
Burn The Beauty Queen is available from their website at www.handsoffgretel.co.uk and the band are currently on tour.