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Greensboro and worked on a lot of guitars and he got us our first guitars. He was good friends with Acoustic Syndicate. We got into them and our friend who we went to school with [Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon] played banjo, too. He’s one of the best in the nation now. It just kind of stuck, you know. I don’t know how I got into it, I just realized it was actually cool and just ran with it and it never stopped.

reBecca BlacK “FrIday” [single, 2011] dw: I’ve never heard this without watching the video. I can see the video in my head right now. JS: I bought it on iTunes. Jh: I watched the video once because Jeff showed us during a band practice, then I sat down and watched it again. The song got stuck in my head and now I find myself singing it. dw: We had practice one night last week and Jeff was like, “Dudes, have you guys seen the video for that ‘Friday’ song?” We stopped having practice and went and watched this thing. Jeff had done some research about Rebecca Black and the whole thing behind this song and the company Ark, so we watched all those videos and then went back to practicing again. But as much as this sucks, it makes me so happy.

the PreSIdentS OF the unIted StateS OF aMerIca “Feather PlucK’n” [from The Presidents of the United States of America, 1995]

review haMMer nO MOre the FInGerS BLACK SHARK (Churchkey Records) During the first couple of songs of Black Shark, you might not notice anything different from Durham’s Hammer No More The Fingers. Granted, the second album from the kinetic trio doesn’t come out swinging like their debut, Looking For Bruce, did with that “Automobiles” and “Shutterbug” one-two punch. Instead, “Atlas of an Eye” and “The Agency” bob and weave, carefully choosing when to turn up the volume and rock out. Still, the group’s off-kilter sense of humor and melodic smarts are just as present here as on older Hammer offerings. The group even brings back noted producer/ former Jawbox and Burning Airlines frontman J. Robbins to turn the knobs and slide the faders. Same as it ever was, fitting enough for a band often typecast for its ’90s nostalgia impulses. But about two-thirds of the way through “Leroy,” a somewhat profane ditty that’s as Bruce-like (read: gloriously raucous) as anything here, comes a string section. It appears during the song’s lone moment of calm, as the guitars go acoustic and Jeff Stickley eases up on his kit. These strings turn the song’s shout-along chorus (“in the beginning of life/ there is a wonderful sound in our heads”) into something much more poignant. At last, we have a newly interesting wrinkle in what was, until that point, just another indie rock headbanger. While it’d be a bit disingenuous to call Black Shark a “mature” record, with songs like the motherfucker-dropping “Leroy” and “Your Nutrition is My Mission” front and center, there’s no mistaking

Jh: Man, this was such a cool band. JS: Yeah, they kind of broke the mold as we knew it, I’d say. dw: I was such a big fan of this record. They didn’t have a bass player, but he turned his guitar way down low and both of them played fourstring guitars. The drummer just had a bass drum and a snare drum and high-hats. That was their band. It was so minimal but so tight. Cool songs with a lot of humor. Jh: The “Peaches” video is a classic, with the ninjas walking around and stuff. dw: I think these guys will come back in style. They had some really dumb stuff, but I think it’ll be hip again in a couple years.

and they’re each doing totally different things, but it meets up and they’re like the best twoguitar band. There’s not a lead guitar.

deerhOOF

PaVeMent

“+81” [from Friend Opportunity, 2007]

“eleVate Me later” [from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, 1994]

JS: If I liked The White Stripes, this is what they’d sound like. dw: These guys have been, for all of us, one of our favorite bands that are out doing stuff right now, touring and putting records out. Jh: They’re very prolific. They put out a lot of stuff and they’re always on the road. dw: Their show is so different from their albums. Their albums have so many weird little sounds going on and it’s a delicate kind of thing, but their live show is balls-to-the-wall rocking. Now they’re a four-piece with two guitar players

dw: I got their first album recently, Slanted & Enchanted. It’s so lo-fi and so smartass. The first time I heard it, I was like, “This is crap!” But I slowly got into it and could hear the melodies and words. I got into them because I got into Phish kind of recently, and Trey Anastasio is a huge Pavement fan. I was like, “I’ve got to check it out now if Phish is into it.” I don’t hear the resemblance at all, but his lyrics are really cryptic and that’s definitely made me feel like it’s OK to not make sense all the time. JS: It’s awesome music, but what we’re trying

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that Hammer No More The Fingers have developed as a band. The deployment of strings (and some organ) is only part of this growth. At 34 minutes, Shark is only two minutes longer than its predecessor. However, the songwriting here displays a newfound depth and skill that belies the album’s brevity. Instead of seemingly rushing through their songs, Hammer gives these tunes room to breathe and relax. A song like the four-minute “Thunder ’n Rain” states its case lyrically in less than two minutes, sketching out a picture informed by bittersweet nostalgia and hard choices. The song’s long coda fills in whatever gaps the words left, with the string section joining the band in a slow, stately dance that’s just as lyrical as the song’s words. Even at its most energetic, Shark carries a sense of regret and loss, with images of old neighborhoods, church graveyards and spruce coffins dotting the album’s upbeat landscape. A half-heard line as seemingly nonsensical as “these fingernails don’t think about themselves” gains a sharper focus when the song’s funereal setting becomes clear. As world-weary and downbeat as things can get in these songs, however, Hammer doesn’t succumb to that mood. The same impulses that inspired the spy-guitar vibes of “The Agency” and the hit-and-run cheekiness of “Your Nutrition” are the same instincts that allow Hammer to get away with any sort of ponderous, existential worries, putting things in a proper perspective. As good as Looking For Bruce was, there was a sense that Hammer No More The Fingers was a happy-go-lucky bunch of dudes content with writing enjoyable indie rock tunes. With Black Shark, Hammer ups the ante considerably, putting them in a place where anything’s possible. —David Raposa

to do now is in a different direction. We like the raw sound that they have, but it’s kind of lackadaisical. dw: I think when I go back and hear our early stuff, I hear more indie influence. I feel like we’re more groove-oriented now and trying to be really tight and interesting. But, at the same time, we still play those old songs. Jh: And we’re still really into those old songs: They’re just tighter now. JS: We were just happy being a rock band, but now we want to be something more. Yeah, we were playing rock music and it kicked ass, but what we’re trying to do now is bigger than that. x Hammer No More the Fingers releases Black Shark at Motorco Music Hall with a show Friday, April 1. Midtown Dickens and LiLa open the $8–$10 show at 9 p.m. eat & drink

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