The Hobs, an Akron-based quartet, have been unleashing their kinetic, guitar- driven, keyboard-laced garage rock with touches of classic-rock muscle for about four years. They’ve honed their chops by touring around the Midwest and East Coast, building a reputation for high-energy shows.
Vocalist and guitarist Ricky Miller, bassist Tiernan King, keyboardist Ryan Urbon and drummer Ian Cummins have self-released one album and are about to celebrate the release of their sophomore, full-length Psychosexual with a free party Aug. 17 at Annabell’s Bar & Lounge in Highland Square.
Psychosexual, released on Akron indie Fone Records, was recorded and mixed by King, who apparently loves the sound of guitar; Miller’s ax-slinging skills and his tone — a sharp, brittle buzz — are mixed right up front, even louder than his intense, high-pitched vocals a la Jack White meets Brian Connolly (of Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz fame).
Musically, the 10 tracks mix the raw energy of garage rock with riffs that nod to classic rock, caffeinated, punk-chord progressions and the occasional flash of serpentine prog-rock licks, often in the same song.
Opener Up in the Air sets the tone with its deceptively complex structure that starts with a mid-tempo stomp before ramping up the energy with a slippery, indie rock riff and a big crescendo leading to a speedy punk midsection. Miller wails about a girl who is “gon’ shake her derriere and throw her hands in the air.”
For guitar nerds, the busy, jigsaw-puzzle style of songwriting (all songs are credited to the band), featuring multiple riffs and parts, offers plenty of tricks to add to their air-guitar arsenals. Turtle sports a punk verse, a catchy classic-rock chorus and a punk-prog outro.
The title track rumbles along a droning Stooges-like groove with keyboardist Urbon banging away at his piano in the background. A searing solo from Miller reveals his shredding credentials.
The band slows down a bit for Parts Unknown, a melodic, relatively straightforward midtempo jam with a catchy, earworm-worthy chorus (if only I had any idea what Miller is actually saying, I could sing along). It should be able to find a spot on college radio playlists.
Nerve Wrecker is a pretty straightforward punk tune while King Chameleon has more of a classic-rock feel, with a near funky midsection and some welcome chunky R&B organ stabs courtesy of Urbon, who is mostly relegated to a supporting role.
Psychosexual leaves little doubt that the Hobs are first and foremost a live rock band.
The songs are made for indie rock clubs where concertgoers can hoist their PBR tallboys, pogo, chicken-dance and fist-pump themselves into a sweaty mess, feeling suitably and thoroughly rocked. For the album’s svelte 38 minutes, the band seldom slows down, with the rhythm section — particularly drummer Cummins — bashing away, pushing the grooves and deftly navigating the many twists and turns jam-packed into most of the tunes.
Crank it up
Properly cranked up to 11, Psychosexual is great driving music, though you may draw weird looks when other drives catch you banging your head and your dashboard. For some the album will be exhausting, and the band’s tunes and Miller’s vocal histrionics may be a bit busy for anyone looking for straight-ahead punk, traditional, blues-based, classic-rock moves, or a basic verse-chorus-verse-solo-out structure. But if you are a guitar-loving rocker who likes to be smacked upside the ear holes while still having a melody you can actually hum, the Hobs are worth a listen.
Hard copies of Psychosexual will be available at the show at Annabell’s and at local record stores. It is available digitally for downloading and/or listening at the Fone Records Bandcamp page at http://fone records.bandcamp.com/.
Also on the bill at Annabell’s are Akron psych-metal outfit Super Predator, who will also be releasing a vinyl album on Fone Records in the fall, and Medina-based indie rock duo Litter Party, who released a self-titled four-song EP in May.