Music » Album Reviews

Small Reactions’ ‘Hung from Wire’ embraces familiarity

Foursome refines its addictive optimism with new EP

by

comment

The fuzzed-out euphoria of Small Reactions' songwriting always tells a story that's more freewheeling than the group's actual biography. For the last five years, the post-punk foursome has stumbled over the usual misgivings of a fresh band fighting for its own breath in an oversaturated world of angular guitars and yearning energy. The group's Bandcamp page used to have a lengthy bio detailing its early struggles coping with sparse audiences, soul-crushing gigs, and the ugly necessities of adult life intruding upon the band's longevity. For a whole year, the harsh realities of indie rock livelihood trapped the band in a disillusioned hiatus. Yet the unfettered creativity of a one-off jam, the spark that ignited Small Reactions' revival, brought with it the essence of what has kept the group's motor running ever since. Since its revival, the group has expanded its ambitions from suburban jam sessions to releasing numerous EPs, playing SXSW, and getting voted to perform at the upcoming Meltasia Music Festival.

Hung from Wire, Small Reactions' latest three-track offering, revels in a freedom found in top-down summer drives, basement shows where money doesn't matter, and songs born underneath a sprawling and cloudless sky. "Shark Week," the opening track, has been a staple of Small Reactions' live sets for at least a year with good reason. It establishes all of the group's best qualities in the first minute. Lead singer/guitarist Scotty Hoffman spins an addictive hook while the surrounding wash of bass, organ, and drums form a jangled patchwork that eggs him to the finish like best friends cheering from the sidelines.

Throughout the EP, Hoffman evokes tales of sinking ships, cryptic notes, and unpaid debts, but his guitar tells a different story. The music is never as existential as Hoffman's lyrics want to be. The EP's title track relies on a simple three-chord progression that lesser bands would lose steam trying to hold down, but Small Reactions excel at making the most out of every note. The band subtly builds on the sparse chord progression until its only course of action is to collapse under the weight of its own noise.

Every second of Hung from Wire bursts with sunny splendor and all the markings of golden age indie rock that favors good storytelling over experimental excess. But storytelling always relies on established narratives, and Small Reactions is no different. The reason its energy feels so familiar is because it follows a tested formula of ephemeral songwriting. Its easygoing riffs are quick to win over the ear, but are even quicker to leave it behind.

The last number, "Betamax (1981)," suffers from its immediate accessibility. The whirling riffs and stripped-down drums are pleasing to the point of becoming placid white noise. The song's melodies and verses dissipate instantly like heat escaping from sun-drenched pavement. By the time the track abruptly drops out it's easy to forget that it was ever there in the first place.

Despite its name, Hung from Wire sounds as if it's bound to nothing but the whims of a passing breeze and carefree adolescent bliss. Small Reactions could benefit from a little more anxiety showing itself between riffs. The EP never relays the briefest moment of tension or struggle. And while Hung from Wire establishes an addictive sense of optimism that's easy to get wrapped up in, the EP lacks any moments of real excitement to revisit. That push and pull of tension and release, darkness to daylight, keeps songs compelling on repeated listens. But even after numerous stops and starts and a career that's already half a decade long, Small Reactions still sounds as vibrant as ever.

Add a comment