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The best kept secret in music


"How to Prosper in the Coming Bad Years - 8.1"

This is the era of the short attention span, as people who grew up with video games, MTV, and the infant stirrings of media saturation begin to take over and build a world that meets their quick-paced, multi-tasked expectations. I'm not yet sure what my cluttered mind makes of this yet-- as with anything, there's plenty of upside and corresponding downside. Regardless, we plunge forward into this new, fast world further every day, and there's lately been a surge in the number of albums that explode with song shrapnel, tossing ideas like brown rice and mixed vegetables and leaving further development to the imagination or later records.

Case in point is this Hank record, a sardine job that packs 15 songs into 28 minutes, slicing and dicing pop and punk songs and feeding them to a cheerleading competition. The Hank collective lurk somewhere in Toronto, a group of enthusiastically amateur female vocalists and instrumentalists swirling around a bearded Canadian guy called Cab who sings alternately with a kind of cockney sneer borrowed from late-70s English punk, an indie boy shout, and a country-ish baritone. What you'd call the overall result of this is up for some debate: "Spazz-pop" ignores the fact that there are bite-sized ballads in this mix, but it works for the uptempo songs, which constitute the majority, while other modern rock crit hyphenates all fall short on some account or another. Their are also dabs of early hip-hop, and the only thing I can really think of to compare it directly to is the Go! Team, though they're not as saturated or noisy as that band.

Hank's hodgepodge sonic jumble is full of wildly disparate elements-- a pounding kickdrum mixing it up with spluttering piano on one track; a jagged, disjointed guitars stabbed by buzzing bass on the next. Steadfastly unprofessional vocals act as the crazy glue that sticks everything together in a big, exuberant wad. As random and tangential as the album's flow is, though, it's obvious that it's a carefully designed trainwreck, sort of a Rube Goldberg deal where the train going off the tracks is just the first in a series of events that leads to an egg being cooked.

Take "The Earless", for example: Record scratching, violent glockenspiel, Cab's freaked-out cockney and the girls' loose harmonies look like a mess at first, but the way they come together undeniably makes for a bracing concoction. The song that follows, "Heswall Diesel", is comparatively straightforward and one of the album's best. A heavy, whomping beat, churning post-punk guitars and a crunching bassline lay down the attack while two-part female harmonies announce, "I'm going out to do some heavy petting." Unexpected pauses heighten the danceability of it, at least until it suddenly morphs into a depressive guitar dirge with a guy whispering "dead friends" over the top.

On the whole, this is a warped trip that deserves to bring some attention to Hank as the upstart provocateurs they seem to be. Of course, that's perhaps a bit complicated by the fact that the album was initially issued in a limited edition of 500, each of which had different artwork by Hank member Paige Gratland. Hopefully, they'll be trotting it out in a wider release soon so more people can get their hands on it, but for the meantime, it's a highly enjoyable if questionably sane statement of purpose.

-Joe Tangari, April 20, 2005 - Pitchforkmedia.com


S/Up=T/clap (BRC)/The Catalano Drawl (CD, Weeping Truckers, 2002)
Ackrill/Venning '91 (CD, Weeping Truckers/Blocks Recording Club, 2003)
How to Prosper in the Coming Bad Years (CD, Blocks Recording Club, 2004)
God Slick/Teardrops (7", Tomlab, 2005)
The Society of Six (CD, Ta-Da Singles Club, 2007)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Cab Williamson started making music when he was five, mostly in the UK. Hank was born in 2002 when Cab Williamson recruited the Hank Collective to create pop music. The stated goal was a CD single and a couple of live shows with a reel-to-reel tape machine. This transpired. In 2003, Hank released its first album Ackrill/Venning’91 which started the Hank trend of hand-making most of the product. By this stage, live shows were becoming more and more elaborate, with the objective being to entertain and surprise the audience whilst bombarding them with short, catchy songs. In live concerts, Hank never have the same dress combo twice.

Blocks Recording Club of Toronto released the second Hank album, 2004’s How to Prosper in the Coming Bad Years which spent eight months on the Earshot college radio charts as well as garnering rave reviews in a plethora of print and online media. Hank played more and more shows and completed its first tour in late 2005. The last year has seen a 7” release on Germany’s Tomlab label, more concerts, and extensive work on new recordings. 2007 sees the release of The Society of Six E.P. and the 3rd, 4th and 5th albums on Blocks: The Luck of the Singers, Hank Play Rave Anthems of the 1990s and Can You Cry? Musically, Hank's ambitions know no bounds. New songs range from soulful jazz to house funk to country balladry to skiffle pop yet all it sounds resolutely and inimitably like Hank.