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Hank IV - Refuge in Genre

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Artist: Hank IV

Album: Refuge in Genre

Label: Siltbreeze

Review date: Nov. 12, 2008

Hank IV are older men playing a young man’s game, a game that, if you’re good, you can grandfather yourself into. There’s no secret to reveal on their first album, Third Person Shooter, nor is there any in the superior follow-up Refuge in Genre, as unashamed and rambunctious as any rock record that’s been made since the Volcano Suns hung it up nearly 20 years ago. No lesson, save one: It’s uglier on the outside than on the inside. Young people, listen: the kind of loners who buy every new garage single hate a band like this because it’s a tale of what their lives might become. They call it "bad bar rock," having never truly experienced a bar rock band in all its putrid shame. Those bands play mostly covers, and couldn’t really understand where a lot like Hank IV are coming from.

So, for the benefit of those not there, here’s where they come from: Colorado, California, and elsewhere. Singer Bob McDonald was in the hardcore band Bum Kon, whose entire body of work was just unleashed on the public; as one of the kingpins behind Revolver Distribution, he’s also the reason many of you have new records to buy in the first place. Guitarist Anthony Bedard was once a member of unparalleled real-life squalor documentarians the Icky Boyfriends, who languished in relative obscurity as those who actually cared about things like success grew wild around them. If the youth turning their backs are lucky enough to survive without severe dependency issues, heart disease or cancer, they will still never be this loose, this bouncy, this rude-sounding yet together. This is the sound of an earlier generation, and the five men of Hank IV explain it through action. It’s an on/off switch of loud, forceful expression, with no time for subtlety. "I heard you say that shit, it sucks," McDonald belts out on "Symptomatic," his band chugging along behind him, unafraid of melodies and unfazed by subtleties. Nobody turns down or fades out, and these men proudly scream themselves hoarse over the din.

Those are the basics, so what are the details? Most of the 11 songs couldn’t crack three minutes if they tried, so things move along with the kind of economy these sort of records used to lack. More bands doing it for the fun, as these guys seem to be, need to take the audience’s idea of fun into consideration, so they get in and out with the necessary expedience. There’s one or two rock-solid anthems in here ("Drive the Whip" being one of them) and a fine return to repeat listenability that, in this age of tiny pressings and non-accountability, is refreshing and makes these old-sounding songs play like new. By trafficking in a brand of nostalgia that most would shun, the men of Hank IV have become their own masters, and must answer to no one but themselves.

By Doug Mosurock

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