Like the Old Testament and Dianetics and most other great religious texts that has been passed to man through the grace of divinity, Amphetamine Reptile’s noise rock compilation series “Dope, Guns ‘N Fucking In The Streets” has a lot of batshit insane stuff and not all of it holds up. Minneapolis by-way-of Fargo, North Dakota’s Hammerhead is one of the bands that hold up to even the most vigorous scrutiny of secular and religious scholars alike (their contribution to the series is an instrumental and not their absolute best work…but I’m trying to make a point here). Hammerhead were a power trio that shared the relentless pummeling sound of most of AmRep’s roster, but differed from Helmet’s rugged individualism and the Cow’s sardonic self loathing; instead opting for some good old fashioned existential murderous despair. Despair might be too strong a word for such deadpan Midwesterners, but though the members might roll their eyes at the hyperbole; the undercurrent was dark. Or maybe they were just guys in a band who liked loud guitars and the occasional noir film. Either way, they were real good. Then they broke up. Two of them moved to the big(ger) city and formed Vaz. Those two, “for a variety of reasons,” have since moved back to Minneapolis and, shortly before their move back, in time for the AmRep anniversary festivities and just in time for a million bands to sound like lesser versions of them, Hammerhead got back together.
“My friend said it was like the Thriller Video,” (with all the people who hadn’t been seen at shows in eons) Erickson says about playing Fargo almost 28 years to the day since all the members had first played there as a unit. I asked him if, what with the full and ever blooming ‘90s revival and noise rock resurgence, there were young people going to the shows. He said, “Yeah. And good thing. There aren’t enough of the old people left…”
As Official Old People Left, Hammerhead is taking it slowly as an ongoing concern. Vaz is still a band but now that all three members of Hammerhead live in the same city again the plan is to use the first two reformed-band EPs as a warm-up for later recordings that will be more comfortable and cohesive, now that they’re rehearsing up to five times a week.
Their second EP, Global Depression, isn’t a huge departure from Hammerhead’s ‘90’s work (though the singing sounds significantly more confident and less off the cuff), maintaining the non-tough guy aggression with enough melody thrown in to get them out of an Oi! show alive. It does however, despite Paul Erickson’s self deprecations about how the band is still finding its footing, seem a fine distillation of the earlier work (with returned member, Paul Sanders) and what Erickson and Jeff Mooridian would accomplish with VAZ. Hammerhead was never afraid to experiment while embracing the confines of the rock and roll system they choose to exist in and the new EP continues that; songs averaging two and a half minutes, strong points about human fuckery made, and plenty of sonic flourish over the jackhammer (I know that’s a cliché but, fuck it, it applies) rhythms. To bring back home to the religious comparisons that I awkwardly framed this Official Noisey Album Stream Premier; It warms the crumpled soft pack of one’s heart to hear Hammerhead continue to profoundly not suck, just like Jesus.
“Global Depression,” comes out officially tomorrow on Learning Curve Records and Hammerhead were kind and Midwestern enough to let us stream it for you early. Thank you, Hammerhead. You are nice.