Dusted Reviews

The Karl Hendricks Trio - The Jerks Win Again

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: The Karl Hendricks Trio

Album: The Jerks Win Again

Label: Merge

Review date: Sep. 5, 2003

Beer, Late Nights, and The Possibilities of Electric Guitar

There was a particular time, an era of both musical and social awakening, when what was then known as “indie rock” began to accumulate a wider sense of cultural importance. It could be tied to the appearance of Superchunk in Seventeen magazine, or Pavement’s minor radio success. Around the time of Lou Barlow’s appearance in Rolling Stone, the era hit its peak. Its roots went further back, in the furious post-punk of bands on SST, early R.E.M., and Boston bands like Mission of Burma and the Pixies. And it wasn’t just about Nirvana, although the wake created by that band would partly result in the souring of the “scene”. It was a time when, if you were of a certain age, exciting music seemed to be springing up all over the place, and people seemed to be getting it. The right bands were winning, and something resembling a real culture was developing.

At this point, there’s no reason to either wax nostalgic about that brief, halcyon period in the mid-90s or to bemoan the forces that brought about its demise. The legacy of that period exists still, with more and more independent labels finding it possible to remain solvent while putting out quality music. And if there are sometimes an over-abundance of scenester snobs at shows, there are just as many people who are enthusiastic about new bands and new sounds from older figures.

There still exists, however, a longing. Not a longing for a particular time or place, but a longing for a sound. Like the first time you heard Crooked Rain with a couple of beers in you, and rock seemed filled with limitless possibility, a noisy mess of emotion and energy. You didn’t care what the people in the band looked like or where they were from, you didn’t care what was being said. A moment like this comes about ten minutes into the Karl Hendricks Trio’s The Jerks Win Again, when Hendricks opens into a lengthy, feedback-drenched guitar solo that silences the room. The solo spews out of Hendricks’ guitar a couple of minutes into “The Night Has No Eyes”, a beautiful, meandering song about flawed romance and inevitable rejection. Hendricks’ guitar playing is fuzzed-out, Neil Young-by-way-of-Dinosaur Jr. sprawl, at times intricately detailed, at others a chaotic, free-form mess. It’s a solo that contains more emotional complexity than Hendricks (or most other songwriters, for that matter) could ever summon in words, careening around for six or seven minutes, a timeless bit of rock poetry, and a good example of why the guitar will never be entirely outmoded.

The Karl Hendricks Trio are not rampant innovators, and a more jaded ear might find it easy to dismiss the band as indie-rock also-rans, purveyors of a sound that has been made long obsolete. But that would be to sell the band short, and to ignore the many joys that The Jerks Win Again offers to the committed listener. These kinds of criticism also presume that the KHT cares about these kinds of distinctions, which they obviously don’t. The angular, noisy post-punk of the early 90s is a style of music in its own right, and if a band can wrest something worthy from that sound, than the end justifies itself.

Ultimately, the Hendricks Trio benefits from the changing winds of fashion, in that almost no one sounds like this anymore. And on songs such as “Chuck Dukowski Was Confused” and “New Wave Situation”, the Trio conjures up energetic, infectious epitaphs for their own sound, emphatic eulogies for rock that no longer has a place. “I guess punk rock lost”, Hendricks laments on “…Situation”, and in a sense, he’s right. With less-than-talentless bands like Good Charlotte riding the seventh wave of pop-punk radio success, punk has never felt more spent. But like the Japanese soldiers marooned in the South Pacific after their nation’s surrender, the Karl Hendricks Trio keep making music like the war’s still on, fighting for punk rock like it can still win. And in their hands, it can and does, restoring a sweep, immediacy and occasionally, a fluid grace that has been all too absent in the form. Maybe, for once, the jerks won’t win.

By Jason Dungan

Other Reviews of The Karl Hendricks Trio

The Adult Section

Read More

View all articles by Jason Dungan

Find out more about Merge

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.