Hank Close opens his first album under the Hank! banner, Guilty Pleasures (Are the Best Ones), with a great guitar track. I didn’t know who Close was before hearing this album so, being a fan of six-string muscle, the hard-hitting and ragged jangle of “Twitch” drew me in fast. Close’s songs for this release often sound like they are ready to break down or otherwise swerve off course but never do; the “heaviest” of the cuts play like near-careening explorations of self.
I hear that loud and clear in “Twitch”. It’s a very insular song and the dramatic remove of his vocal, spiked with a touch of reverb, strikes a notable contrast with the arrangement. It embraces a largely unvarying trajectory though Close does shift gears near the song’s conclusion. The same rough-hewn guitar texture continues during “1000 Fools”. It substantially picks up the pace, however, and attacks listeners with breakneck rambunctiousness. I love the tattered and frayed quality of the song.
Close has plenty of surprises tucked up his sleeve. I am impressed with how he takes such a memorable stylistic turn with the third track “Lady St.” moving from wave after wave of distorted guitar chords in the opening duo into a wiry yet cleaner sound. It has the same singer/songwriter influence at its heart, however – you can strip every element away and, even in much different form, still have an exceptional song. In my opinion, it’s the album’s finest moment.
Guilty Pleasures (Are the Best Ones) releases Friday, October 15th.
“Alchemy” is a pure slaughterhouse blues. It comes across as two songs meshed into one but, instead of a jarring contrast, the pieces are sympathetic. The slower portions of the cut are fueled by a downcast melody Close patiently develops while the up-tempo portions, considerably shorter, constitute the song’s dramatic peak. I think there’s no question Close has a great talent for manipulating musical dynamics and this is an excellent example of that in action.
He whips up another round of guitar muscle with the track “Stupid Teens”. The six-string histrionics, however, are never gratuitous or move far away from the singer/songwriter pedigree ultimately supporting the other tracks. There’s no doubt, however, that performances such as these rock out, but there’s so much more going on. The feel of a golden oldie he conjures here is delectable as well.
I am impressed with the sheer variety of musical voices at his disposal. “Poison” is very different fare with a mournful riff-laden crawl. It has the air of barely arrested hysteria and the claustrophobic intensity of the song will rate high with fans of heavy guitar. Close’s music is direct and simple, but nonetheless effective. Flourishes of weepy guitar join a wider keyboard presentation than before during the penultimate track “Friend Is Gone”. This heartbroken lament will touch all but the hardest of hearts. Guilty Pleasures (Are the Best Ones) has something for everyone who enjoys modern guitar rock and there’s no doubt in my mind Hank Close can continue sustaining and building on this template for many years to come.