They work in a familiar vein spiked with unexpected flavors and have carved out a reputation as one of the liveliest punk-rock influenced acts working today. Hard Nips first formed in 2009 when the four women decided to quit talking and transform their passion for music into writing their own songs. They have two full-length albums and three EP’s to their credit since then and their third studio release, Master Cat, is an eight track release that is arguably Hard Nips’ best outing yet.
Master Cat has a bracing sound. Its opening cut “Blender X” is the first example of how well the four members occupy an assortment of niches in the mix adding up to a greater whole. Mooch and Hitomi are the lynchpin for me – their bass and drum work, respectively, reaches out of the speakers and grabs listeners. The production captures its raw-boned power yet never allows the rhythm section to overpower the track. Saki and Yoko are important contributors to the performance, make no mistake – Saki’s capacity for manufacturing potent riffs is apparent throughout Master Cat and Yoko’s vocals enhance the song’s appeal.
The latter strength is, perhaps, one of the most underrated for Hard Nips. Yoko’s voice wouldn’t generate the same tension with an acoustic or outright pop track. Her bright and vibrant voice, occasionally smirking with defiance and humor, plays against the often rugged playing of Saki’s guitar, Mooch’s bass, and Hitomi’s outstanding drums. The latter two are particularly responsible for the character of these tracks. They play with fabled telepathic tightness and lock into grooves that give these songs life.
Listen to Master Cat by Hard Nips below
“Master Cat” is a near-note perfect example of this. It has a near ambient opening before Mooch and Hitomi take over. It has a relentless pulse from the first, swinging tight, and Saki’s six string spikes the verses with knife-edge fills. She gains a wider berth during the song’s chorus without ever upsetting its balance. Some of the same aesthetic bleeds over into the next track “Alternative Dreamland” but it relies much more on backing or multi-tracked vocals than the preceding song. There’s also a light dreamy ambiance surrounding the track that should play well for mass audiences.
The fifth track “Analog Guys” provides listeners with one of the best full-out rock songs on Master Cat. Guitar aficionados will enjoy the six-string sound Saki achieves during this track and Hitomi’s drumming supplies a hammering backbeat. It’s compelling to hear Hard Nips play with such aggression but, counter to cliché, it’s convincing as well. The finale “Cupid Devil” reveals added dimensions to the band’s sound. You could never mistake Hard Nips for some sort of progressive outfit but they are capable of much more than head-down and charge ahead 4/4 rock music.
It gives lead singer Yoko her best vehicle yet. The expressive vocal weaves through the arrangement with a canny sense of the musical and dramatic alike. It isn’t conventional, by any stretch, but Yoko has a storyteller’s talents. Hard Nips romps through Master Cat’s eight songs intent on consolidating their position as one of the best rock bands working today. They may be under the proverbial radar for some but won’t be much longer.