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HiM - Peoples

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Artist: HiM

Album: Peoples

Label: Bubble Core

Review date: Apr. 11, 2006

HiM's Peoples is an odd bird – a combination of strong rhythms, intricate playing, and undeniable technical ability doomed by an overall slickness that's difficult to swallow. This music would be perfectly placed in a movie scene set in a yuppie lounge, as it's too laid-back to possibly offend anyone. Unfortunately, it's also too stripped of emotion to do more than slide past, smooth and tasteful, easily and quickly forgotten.

The drums and percussion by band leader Doug Scharin (formerly of Codeine, June of 44, and others) are responsible, together with bassist Griffin Rodriguez, for the consistently strong rhythms that buoy up these pieces. HiM regulars Adam Pierce and Josh Larue add in guitars and additional percussion, while Robert King's organ and piano also fill in spaces. The blend of African rhythms, occasionally jagged guitar, and jazz touches can be interesting, but all too often the results float rather than grip.

Among the many additional guests, singer Christian Dautresme is the most prevalent, appearing on five of the 10 songs with varying results. His vocals on "What's Up Tonight" bring it down to the lowest soul-less light-jazz imaginable, even while there's some interesting rhythmic work and guitar playing. The mix of Daustresme's vocals, vibraphone, and organ risks making "How You Buy Fire" another lightweight tune.

The lead guitar in "Shuddered" wanders across the intricate drums like a somewhat misguided guest, while the vocal chorus of "Universe Peoples" flirts with "Up With People" triteness, despite or because of its origin, Alan Watts' 1966 The Book. They barely pull it off, carefully treading the line. Likewise, "As We Were Once" bubbles along playfully on percolating marimba and Tomeka Reid's cello, just this side of cuteness.

The more successful "In These Times" breaks 10 minutes with a slightly heavier jazz feel, harkening back to Herbie Hancock's Headhunters merger of jazz and funk. The horns, and the jazz-funk organ, make the song unique on the album, and certainly spice things up. The driving rhythm is complemented by horns, fuzz guitar, flute and more, easily distancing the song from the rest of the album.

After 52 minutes, one almost has to wonder whether HiM purposely sought to remove emotion and intensity from Peoples. Given the occasions when the songs threaten to burst their bonds, only to be pulled back under, it's a fair question. The middle section of "In These Times" demonstrates the possibilities. The result, in any case, is a harmless and bland, sometimes appealing, collection of songs that clearly could have been more, had they only been given a longer leash.

By Mason Jones

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