Tune Smith: Invisible Hand drops a powerful new manifesto

Invisible Hand

Wow, Invisible Hand's been getting a nice "happy ending" from the conspiratorial press and disc jockey establishments around here for a few solid months. As a rule I always despise flavor-of-the-season bands, which I sometimes think are anointed just to piss me off. In an effort to really get under my skin, Invisible Hand has released their first full-length self-titled CD, and even I cannot deny, it's awesome. We're talking world-class progressive-rock, art-pop here, complete with cerebral and abstract songwriting, skin-tight arrangements, and muscular playing.

Lulling the listener in with a false sense of security, the album's opener "Two Chords" is an elegantly simplistic and yet driving rondo and an ode to the muse of beginning guitar players. (The two-chord jam is, after all, the king of all jams, only bested by the high emperor of all jams: the one chord jam.) But "Two Chords" is also a total bluff, since after the following tune–- the mid-80s U2 stylings of "There's Room in My Will"–- the album begins to twist and sprawl in multiple mind-bending directions.

Fans of Robyn Hitchcock will definitely find something to love here. Like Hitchcock, songwriter Adam Smith's movements are often entirely angular, with key centers and time signatures resetting at every turn of phrase. There are also hints of Pavement, Adrian Belew, XTC, and early Pink Floyd; but the album is anything but derivative, reading more like a bold, fresh manifesto.

It is also surprisingly catchy for music with so few points of repetition. Not that traditional verse-chorus-verse song structure is completely abandoned, but what in other music might be "normal" melodic forms are here usurped by an adventurous grab bag of shifting harmonies and migrating tonics. Compositions become more classical in nature, with every note suggesting new themes. It's a wide-open and exciting songwriting style.

And yet Invisible Hand is also incredibly accessible. Some credit here must go to the crew at White Star Sound–- namely producers Chris Keup and Stewart Myers–- who managed to extrude a lot of clean energy from a band known for a somewhat psychedelic garage aesthetic. Guitars are punchy and raw, but rest neatly against each other. The bass is a creamy liquid sea monster burrowing under impeccable drumming. Lovely little sombre string quartets are laced throughout, evoking macabre documentaries. These careful arrangements serve to clarify the band's detailed compositions and precise playing, elements that often get lost in your typical garage rock environment.

It's hard-rocking, happy, and upbeat but also moody, menacing, and throbbing. It's familiar and yet strikingly unique. Whether they're the "next big thing" is irrelevant. This music may actually just be too smart for the mainstream, even with its youthful abandon and outright heavy rock ethos. But that doesn't really matter: Invisible Hand has dealt a masterful first blow, and for that they should be proud.

Invisible Hand celebrates the release of their debut album at the Jefferson Theater on Saturday, November 6 at 7:30pm. Sarah White and the Pearls and Lux Perpetua open. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.


Very groovy. If you'd like to read the unedited original of this piece, you can find it here:


@Holy Smokes: OK count me in and thanks! There's a lot to like here...a short list: I love the production and arrangement--there's plenty of space, biting tele sound, big energy punk drums that are all over the toms but still right on the beat without too much cymbal wash or white boy spaz-fills, nice dynamics with quiet sections where vocals are more intimate, super cool 2nd guitar parts coming as dialogue at hard-right pan, and a muscular, sinuous bass part that's mixed for very little mid-presence so it leaves lots of room in the middle but still very present and clear.

Overall it's a British sound that reminds me of Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, Captain Phoenix, and the Waking Eyes.

Just like all the diatribes about local wine, I'd say who cares if it's local if it ain't good? But this is really good. So much the better that it's local and not jam band.

Hey BD: You should know, none of the stuff on the Myspace is off the new album. Go check out the first single from the album here and see if that doesn't float your boat:


Hmmm...just listening to their tunes on the MySpace site and truly wanting to say "Wow this is good" but rather "OK this is ok". Punk energy and attitude abound but what town in the middle of Missouri isn't offering the same at this moment. Tell me I'm wrong and point to the great stuff, and I'll grab a pom pom.

many - Maybe the manifesto is something like "oblique is the new black." Or "three chords is never enough." Or maybe "Nintendo Uber Alles." I'm not sure though, I was pretty drunk when I wrote that. Who are we talking about, again?

heh heh. You said "creamy liquid sea monster."

Nice review Cripsy. Good to have you back. However, I'm curious what the manifesto you describe would be exactly. I listened to the album and I agree with almost all of your descriptions but you describe so many different styles, moods, and forms that I guess I'm confused what you're saying is the manifesto. Perhaps this is my job as listener to figure it out... wait, no, it's not. Tell me what to think!

formerly my favorite chinese dish, now my favorite music reviewer

Thanks for the awesome write-up, mr. duck! see u on saturday?

Nice writing Crispy, I'll have to check it out!