Hollerado’s new album is free, and it kicks ass

When Hollerado first began giving away demos at shows, the band couldn’t afford proper packaging, so they simply placed a CD-R in a Ziploc bag and called it Demo in a Bag. Now, the quartet has recorded a full-length, but its humble means have remained the same – hence the album’s goofy-but-appropriate title, Record in a Bag.

If there’s one lesson you can take away from the album’s title, it’s this: Hollerado takes itself less seriously than any band in the entire world. Look no further than the opening track, a ridiculous little ditty called “Hollerado Land,” written and performed by the band’s friend Sam. It was recorded in what sounds like a noisy room full of people, and features slurred vocals and badly botched guitar riffs; in short, it’s the sloppiest recording to be made public since Beck’s earliest releases (think Golden Feelings). As weird as it is that the band doesn’t even appear on the opening track of its debut album, it’s the perfect introduction to Record in a Bag, setting a relaxed party vibe that resonates throughout the entire 12-track collection, even during the band’s tightest, most focused songs.

Hollerado plays noisy garage rock, but the group sets itself apart from the majority of today’s indie landscape by drawing heavily from ’70s riff-rock. Of course, the only way to get away with ’70s bombast these days is to do it with a sense of irony, and Hollerado has a knack for being humourous without making the music sound frivolous or disposable. Consider a song such as “Got to Lose,” which pairs serious teachings (“You’ve got to lose love if you want to find love”) with hilariously sordid imagery (“There was a man with a monocle eating pineapple outside / He offered me to trade his bike for head…what?”)

In that sense, the most apt comparison when describing Hollerado is Weezer, more in terms of the groups’ shared spirit than a stylistic similarity. Like Rivers Cuomo, Hollerado sounds like it was weaned on a diet of KISS and Cheap Trick, but the band’s unflagging wit and self-awareness prevents it from ever sounding like a lame ’70s retread. And while Record in a Bag delivers plenty of moments of power-pop perfection (see the gorgeous chorus harmonies in “Fake Drugs”), Hollerado’s roots influence ensures that the group will never be pinned as a Weezer knock-off. “Hard Love” could easily be a full-fledged country song if only the guitars weren’t so noisy, and “On My Own” is classic roadtrip-folk (“You bring granola bars / I’ll bring some bags to put the wrappers in”). Vocalist Menno Versteeg has the ability to sound simultaneously tuneful and totally unhinged, and his husky shout falls somewhere in between Jeff Tweedy and Joe Strummer.

Saying that Record in a Bag sounds like a party is not a metaphor – the album contains interludes of drunken, group-sung a cappella (“Reno Chunk”), as well as background noises that suggest the group might have held an in-studio kegger during its recording sessions. It’s always a pleasure to listen to a band that’s having this much fun, but what really sets Hollerado apart is the sharpness and complexity of its songwriting. Songs don’t just have one hook, but several, meaning that each track sounds like its bursting at the seams with ideas. “Walking on the Sea” begins with a Pixies-inspired surf riff, and its verses contain three separate sections, any of which would be catchy enough to serve as a chorus for a lesser band; then, just when you think its all over, it finishes with 30 seconds of crashing waves, whistling, and Hawaiian guitar. “Do the Doot Da Doot Doo” has such a intricate structure that it’s almost exhausting to listen to; it feels like it lasts much longer than its 4:44 runtime, not because its boring, but because you can’t believe they fit so much into less than five minutes.

All this, and I haven’t even told you the best part – the band is offering Record in a Bag as a free download from its website. Screw the Radiohead model – it’s absolutely insane that a record this good can be given away for nothing. Hollerado’s feel-good vibes will only sound better come summer, so this is going to be one to watch out for in the coming months.

mp3: Record in a Bag
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