Tune Smith: Invisible Hand drops a powerful new manifesto
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.