Label: Saddle Creek
Released: 6th April 2018
Coming from a city that’s given us The War On Drugs, Modern Baseball, and MewithoutYou, you’d be forgiven for pigeonholing Philadelphia’s Hop Along into that American Indie Rock pantheon that far too many bands that aren’t even indie rock get thrown into these days. While Hop Along’s debut and second records – 2012’s ‘Get Disowned’ and 2015’s ‘Painted Shut’ – were self-confessed slabs of freak folk-dyed indie rock set in concrete slabs of grunge and punk, their third effort ‘Bark Your Head Off, Dog’ demonstrates their natural evolution, adding strings, synthy power-pop, and lyrical rants that roll off the tongue like an Alanis Morissette record.
Vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter Frances Quinlan tackles 2018’s in-trend topic: the politics of power and gender. In nine songs and forty minutes, Quinlan runs you through the depressing reality of disappointment in both one’s self and others, the romanticisation of finding yourself and finding someone else to show you, and power’s role in history. It’s a wild ride of abstract thoughts, oblique observations, and curious ideas draped across a backdrop of jingling jangling indie-pop that takes them away from the sounds of their contemporaries in Waxahatchee, Slingshot Dakota, and Glocca Morra and towards a sound that’ll have you dancing around your room as much as it will have you questioning all you know.
‘One That Suits Me’ plays out like taking Alanis Morissette to a mid-noughties indie-disco and single ‘How Simple’ is a string-led synth-pop daze, while ‘What The Writer Meant’ and ‘Look Of Love’ are lo-fi indie-grunge gems perfected for the power-pop generation. All in all, it seems swell. It’s when you dive back in for more that you realise Hop Along have hit a bump: there’s a lack of substance that keeps you coming back for more. Sure, it’s got layers, plenty of them, but there easily segregated and you’re left digging through the same nine songs in the same way.
As far as third albums go, and as far as the indie-rock pantheon of Philadelphia runs, ‘Bark Your Head Off, Dog’ is a delightful distraction from the melancholy of the masses, yet neither a hit nor miss for Hop Along who still seem to be finding their musical feet. Jack Press