What ever happened the concept of The Slacker Band? Perhaps it’s the rapid gentrification of formerly loose, artist-friendly hoods and the accompanying relentless capitalism that instills an (often faked) puritanical work ethic even on those who wear skull caps in the summer. Perhaps it’s the media-imposed pressure on every semi-notable creative to be “on-message” and to turn in at least one vague op-ed per month on some woke af issue. Perhaps it’s the hip hop world’s “I had to grind to get where I’m at” hustler mentality bleeding into the indie realm. Whatever the case, the concept of the band of couch-enthusiasts who sit in a haze of illicit smoke watching midnight cult films and, incidentally, making a few sounds with instruments every now and again that turn out to be interesting and brilliant has faded into near nonexistence over the past two decades.
Which is what makes Spirit Of The Beehive and their offkilter, hella’ hazy new record so full-tilt refreshing.
Let’s start with that title. Hypnic Jerks. I had to look this one up, thinking at first that it may be a dis on some subculture (The Hypnics? Descendants of the Hittites?) or a proud declaration of jerkdom by the Bees themselves. It turns out that a “hypnic jerk” is that second when you’ve just about fallen asleep and are suddenly “jerked” back into consciousness. That hazy purgatory between the two worlds where everything meshes together in a gauzy, confusing, not entirely unpleasant wave.
It’s the absolute perfect description of this record.
Kicking off with 40 seconds of random voice snippets, one of which proclaims, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here talking to you, but I’m not”, opener “nail i couldn’t bite” then freefalls into a repeated sample of “Sometimes he can, sometimes he can, sometimes he can” before finally, brilliantly, crashing into the sunniest, laziest, catchiest riff of the year, a guitar loop that seems to take forever to stretch out and find its hook but you’re thankful for every second of the struggle. It’s a gentle track with blended male/female vocals coated in melodic disinterest, hooks sneaking in out of nowhere as if they’ve just been stumbled upon in rehearsal and the tape just happened to be rolling, and a chorus beamed in from a world where shoegazers have no interest in glossy production, a world that only exists in this particular band’s head. It’s that rarest of all things: a unique vision. And it’s easily one of the finest tracks of the year.
“mantra is repeated” wakes up a bit and shakes itself into a more forceful delivery, even though the chorus of “I can’t make it work but that’s the reason I try” is sung with such resigned, contented, loser-tastic ambivalence you’d think it was 1991 up in here. One of the many weird strengths of this record is the threading of trippy samples throughout, often floating in and out of certain songs then coming back in others, cresting in on intros and outros, sometimes just taking over a song right in the middle and not allowing it to come back. Oftentimes, like on the surprisingly aggressive “can i receive the contact” (which definitely betrays a former punk background in at least some of the Bees) the samples are used as barriers to define song parts, like haphazard walls between semi-friendly empires. Other times they may have simply forgotten to turn off the recording. Whatever the case, this just may be the most endearingly overbearing use of voice samples since Paul’s Boutique.
Although the first half of Hypnic Jerks is more accessible, it’s the last run of tracks that really brings forth the “wait, did we really put that on the record” grab bag of delights aspect that makes the record stand out amongst the heap of striving-so-hard indie league go getters on he present scorched-earth landscape. Floating beautifully but with no discernible direction, “poly swim” is the kind of song that latches onto one great idea (in this case a repeated banging on a children’s toy) and rides it to a simplistic glory of the kind that can only be achieved by accident. The curiously named “d.o.u.b.l.e.u.r.o.n.g.” kicks off with a-minute-and-a-half of some guy’s voice narrating his dinner habits, then crash-lands into a hazy jam about peeled posters and cracked streets that reduces the apocalypse to nothing more than just another lame hassle. And although “(without you) in my pocket” takes seemingly forever to finally reach its completely rad new wave-by-way-of-Strawberry Alarm Clock chorus, you can’t help but think you’ve benefited greatly from the journey even though you can’t quite remember it.
“I’ve got vision on both sides” goes the opening verse on the uncharacteristically driving title track, before one of those incessant samples comes in and fucks everything up as always, and it is at this moment that the overall vibe of the band, their vision coming in on both sides, comes into full, vivid focus. It’s the 90s, you see, only instead of striving to be My Bloody Valentine or Nirvana, these guys fucking want to be The Folk Implosion. And in a world of Pearl Jams, it’s the Folk Implosion that I’ll always love best.
This is music for those who take one peak outside the curtains and opt to stay in bed, for those who spend evenings attempting to get the best photo of their cats through a haze of vape smoke, for all the lovable disappointments and highly educated retail workers, for those to whom a solid opinion is a far off shore they care little about reaching, content instead to float in the glorious, calming waters forevermore.
Spirit Of The Beehive, we salute you.