Visible Hand

(NOTE: This is the original unedited version of the piece that ran in the Hook.)

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. That’s just annoying.

I’m sorry, but as a rule I always despise any and all flavor-of the-season bands. As far as I’m concerned local press anoints them just to piss me off. I ask you: how many acts du jour actually end up in nationally recognized or sustainably profitable music “careers?” Few, my friends, far too few.

But let us not dally. 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 plain old awesome. Period. We’re talking world-class progressive-rock, art-pop here, complete with cerebral and abstract songwriting, skin-tight arrangements and muscular playing. I think I’m a little gay for the stuff.

Lulling the listener in with a false sense of security, the album’s opener “Two Chords” is 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 grandmother of all jams: the one chord jam.) An elegantly simplistic and yet driving rondo, “Two Chords” is a total bluff since, once through the following tune – the mid-80s U2-evoking “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 very exciting songwriting style.

And yet Invisible Hand is 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. I wanted to hate it. Hell, I planned to hate it. I do not. It’s just too damn good for that.

Local writers have been intimating that Invisible Hand could be some sort of “next big thing” coming out of our stilted burg. At this point, it’s irrelevant. This music may be a little too smart for mainstream radio, 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 will be celebrating the release of Invisible Hand at the Jefferson Theater on Saturday, November 6 at 7:30pm with guests Sarah White and the Pearls and Lux Perpetua. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

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