Hills! Werewolves! Run! is a great name for a band, one that demands attention and practically guarantees excitement. Two of the tracks on the British band’s third album sound like the name; the other two are more sedate. Each track relies heavily on a single element, which changes track to track. The listener’s appreciation will hinge on each of these elements.
The first track is the least effective, as the main element is a political rant. Samples such as these are swiftly outdated, and in an election year, the U.S. is already inundated with Obama speak. Few Americans will want this in their music. (Nor for that matter would we want a Cameron monologue.) The pace is slow, save for what seems like a “Won’t Be Fooled Again” sample at the start. Better to skip to the second track.
“From Sweden To The Lakes In Sun” is the album’s standout cut, mastered much louder and messier than the first, bursting with cymbals, tambourines, scuzzy psych guitars, and a Blue Oyster Cultish bass line (think “Godzilla”). This is what most would expect a band named Hills! Werewolves! Run! to sound like: someone one might run from. A sweet saxophone craziness seeps into the concluding minutes, like an amphetamine gypsy crashing a moonshine party. Then the band shifts again to the quiet, as “It’s Not The End Of The World (Part 1)” unfolds with gentle ambient guitar work and kind keyboards. Its sense of restraint is akin to that of the opening track, and it might have been better in the two-spot, but it does possess the vibe of some of Led Zeppelin’s softer pieces. The final four minutes of the ten-minute track shift in mood, growing cloudier and more ominous. These minutes possess an improvisational vibe, with sporadic crackle and drums that fall like spot showers. The only downside is that when they recede, they leave the listener relaxed, which makes the beginning of “Stuckism” somewhat of a jolt.
Just like “From Sweden To The Lakes In Sun”, “Stuckism” is mixed louder than the preceding cut. This track’s main element is a wet bass motif straight from the Black Sabbath playbook. The rest of the players coalesce around it, scatter and reemerge, producing the feeling of avid motion. When the drummer and lead guitarist smash and riff as one, they make a huge impact. Like the other tracks, “Stuckism” contains a mid-piece shift, but this one rises from silence into a brand new sequence before the bass reasserts its primacy.
Hills! Werewolves! Run! seems to take pride in its ability to cross genres, yet the band’s strength is found in its heaviest incarnations and improvisational moments. It’s good to be able to do many things, but it’s better to do a few things very well. I’d love to hear an all-out blitz of an album in the style of tracks 2 and 4, made with a sense of panicked disorientation worthy of the band’s name. In the meantime, stoner psych fans have a new band to put on their playlists. (Richard Allen)
This is a very sweet album. The first thing I heard this morning and these sounds have put a very nice, rounded edge to things around. The sound is thick, textured and spacey.
Hills! Werewolves! Run! now have a new home at :