Hammer No More The Fingers
It makes sense that many musically inclined college graduates of the past few years are finding solace in the apparent revitalization of ’90s indie-rock. It was their own introductory period of exposure to artistic influence, after all. Not only does such a form of recent modernization provide a brisk whiff of nostalgia, but also also inherent hope within young artists in that they can consume themselves in a style that both they and their audiences can enjoy mutually. Believe it or not, some artists despise their own genre. They wander aimlessly, feeding into the palm of a corporate hierarchy that only abides by dimly lit economics. Experimentation or actual artistic preference is hardly ever an option if it means less cumulative profit. It is the dark side of the music industry that many choose to ignore, focusing most of their efforts on the independent artists who just care about sharing their music without any corporate pressure involved. Barring some form of extraordinary talent, it is generally easy to tell when an artist embraces their own style of music to an equalized degree of their most diehard fans. There are few words for the sense of stage presence, dedication, and group chemistry involved. It remains a respectable impression of downright cohesiveness and effort applied, with the lack of it being one of the several weaknesses in contemporary music.
The lengthily titled Hammer No More The Fingers know their musical roots and they wear it on their sleeves proudly. The 3 twenty-something musicians grew up as idolizers of the early ’90s scene, embracing the amiable aspects of grunge and early indie-rock in a respectful manner. Growing up in North Carolina, the 3 members were inspired by local legends, Archers of Loaf, to form a band and, by age 10 in 1994, they were all performing a variety of songs together; some were originals and others were Archers of Loaf covers. Such inspiration gave vocalist/bassist Duncan Webster, guitarist Joe Hall, and drummer Jeff Stickley a few steps ahead of their peers. The continued stepping forward too; the three are sitting here over 13 years later on the verge of musical success. Some of the success can be attributed to their wholesomely invigorating form of early ’90s poppy power-punk, being a rich blend of a variety of prominent artist stemming from the Pixies, The Lemonheads, and They Might Be Giants (in addition to Archers of Loaf, of course). However, I like to think that the most reasonable explanation for Hammer No More The Fingers’ recent acclaim is their reluctance to stray outside of their originative influences. In their own music, Webster, Hall, and Stickley sound like kids who grew up in the ’90s, loving every second of the music scene that came with it. They remain members of a dying breed, one that remains consistent and purposeful in regard to their musical influences.
Though all 3 members are friends from North Carolina, the hectic years of college saw them drift apart somewhat. Hall attended the University of North Carolina while Webster pursued his musical dreams under the bright lights of New York City, fronting local favorites Mumu Worthy to keep himself busy. Since arriving in NYC a few years ago, Webster has had his share of memorable experiences. Apart from playing an opening slot at the Bowery Ballroom, he has become a close friend and musical accomplice of Patti Smith. The two hit it off when Mumu Worthy played at her annual New Year’s Eve party. Since then, Webster has played with both Smith and RHCP’s Flea at a variety of functions, including the Hullabaloo Festival in Los Angeles. Such experiences made things quite convenient for Joe Hall and Jeff Stickley when they reunited with Webster last December. Webster made the transition from Chapel Hill to New York City rather seamlessly, picking up his share of career-based advice from the legendary likes of Patti Smith. It remains almost ironic that Webster moved back to North Carolina in an effort to once again find greater recognition on the musical circuit. Keep in mind though, such a move is symbolic of the band’s nature. They do not forget their original influences, friends, or places of origination. Some things never change for the better.
Relocated back in good ol’ North Carolina, Hammer No The Fingers recorded their debut EP, a self-titled effort, earlier this year. Set to be released on November 13th, it features 7 songs within the traditional vein of an “early ’90s indie revival type thing”, as the band personally puts it. The EP serves as a representation of several styles within the time period, the most prominent being the mixture of power-punk and grunge. The wildly infectious “Black Harmony” contains an expectedly simplistic chord structure that sounds appropriately angst-ridden while backed by a coarser imitation of assorted indie-rock heroes Evan Dando or Eric Bachmann, while the opening “Orgy” borders on a subjective form of geek-rock, with the group’s collaborative vocal performance being of a whinier etiquette. Still, the harmonization contained in the chorus and the aggressive chordal approach makes it one of the strongest tracks on the EP. Detailing the overlooked aspects of high school in financial support and easily persuaded women in “Black Harmony”, the personable grasp that Hammer No More The Fingers conveys is one of their most prevalent strengths.
Though “Black Harmony” uses a repetitive approach in the utilized chords and reflective rhythm, the bridge contained near the conclusion of the song adds a strong justification of variation. The airy, guitar-led intricacy reminds me somewhat of The Wrens’ trademark tracks, even if the specific moment lasted for only 10 seconds or so. The chorus contained in the gloomy “Bossman” is also reflective of such guitar-led variations, quickly transitioning from a series of generically halted chords into a more expansive progression that uplifts the song into a state of fuller intricacy. Such moments easily help in creating a belief that Hammer No More The Fingers will be seeing broader success in no time. If it were the early ’90s, most of the songs on their EP would be college radio staples. If we are lucky, they will never feel the pressure to revert into a more modernized version of their former selves. If they keep at it, they will hold no regrets.