Sound: The year is 1965, and you and I are undercover detectives on the hot rod circuit. That phrase by Mr. Burns from The Simpsons inspired a band from Alabama to call themselves Hot Rod Circuit. This wasn't the start of their music career as the guys have previously released a quite successful record by the name of Antidote. They were craving out their own unique sound since they were in school back in 1997, ignoring mainstreams and the tastes of radios. Their 2004's album Reality's Coming Through disappointed a lot of the fans and made most of them to forget the dreams about Hot Rod Circuit comeback. It didn't disappoint the band though as they managed to sign a deal with a new record label and release a new album.
Like the band's early records the album carry emo atmosphere layered over rock beats. It is minor-harmonized and carry a great intense. The sound is multi-layered, there are two guitars playing different melodies at the same time plus a voice leading the third melody, which all together sums up to something volume and highly emotional. Occasional piano adds even more emotions to the music.
The songs are plain and the same in the verses, but have bigger and louder choruses, turning them into sing-alongs. Due to upbeat drums by Dan Duggins you'll find yourself tapping your foot all through the record. A sing-along and a wise drumming turn any song into a potential hit -- having these two you just need to add a catchy melody. And that's where Hot Rod Circuit fail -- they are so focused on the same sound and clichd that you can hardly differ one song from another. Even after the 5th listen (I tried).
The songs are often fast as if rushing somewhere -- like upbeat and almost happy What We Believe In. U.S. Royalty is catchy and more rock that anything else with sliding solo guitar. This is probably the strongest track on the record. Hot Rod Circuit finishes the album in a very traditional American way -- with a country song that falls out of the whole record. While you listen to a silly and strangely called 6-8, it's almost unbelievable somebody was just crooning a track ago. // 7
Lyrics: The lyrics on The Underground Is a Dying Breed are overfilled with emotions and the strongest words to describe the feelings. Vocalist Andy Jackson is partly loosing the love of his life, singing that I can't eat/I can't sleep and We're sinking like a stone/We're barely hanging on. Partly saying his last good-bye If we die right now/I hope you'll never be alone. Unfortunately this doesn't always go with Jackson's emo singing. Especially when he's whining You make me feel like I'm on fire (in 45's) and the back vocals repeat with the same boring intonation Oh you're freaking me out. You don't really believe either on of those At the same time the poetry has a share of good humor and maybe we shouldn't take all too serious.
Jackson sings with a great pressure, like pushing words out of himself in Vampire, hoarse a bit on higher notes in What We Believe In, and meows in Holding On To Nothing. Those are the highlights, the rest of the time the vocals are pretty boring and are often hidden under hard-hitting drums. // 6
Overall Impression: The CD is far from being excepted to be successful -- not only it doesn't have any evident stand-outs, there's barely one catchy tune out of 12 tracks. But I guess that doesn't bother the band. Hot Rod Circuit stubbornly plays the same indie-emo rock since they've only started. That is to be greatly respected by the old fans, but doesn't attract new listeners to the band. The sound is pretty stale and you can't get rid of the feeling you've heard it somewhere before. It's hard to believe the album was recorded recently as the production sounds like getting back to the late '90s. // 7
- Kosh (c) 2007