Hozac Hookup Klub, Round Two
by Stephen Slaybaugh

After the first round of the Hozac Hookup Klub in March, we’ve been anticipating laying our hands on the next dispatch of singles from the reputable Chicago imprint. This second batch has proven to be a little further afield than what might have been expected, but is perhaps only slightly less worthy of adulation—if adulation was even a goal to begin with. If anything they show that Hozac aren’t narrow-minded aesthetes, but rather modernist curators, shaking the ground for worthwhile sonic curios no matter their bent.

Hookup Klub number four comes from the Art Thieves, a band about which I know little and, after trolling the internet, even less. No mind, as the pudding is in the grooves, or something like that. Unfortunately, the band’s 45 turns out to be the Klub’s first stumble, albeit a minor one at that. The A-side, “I’ve Had It,” is a passable slab of scuzzrock that works the polarities of chalkboard treble and bass-bucket low-end and nowhere in between. It’s repetitive and primal, a good soundtrack to a pocketful of qualudes, but still there’s not much to get the heart thumping. With the flip, one has to wonder if a so-named act should really be calling a song “Mona Lisa.” More curious is the Thieves’ inability to really get it up for the cut, instead walking the fence between sludgy vitriol and a true dirge. The band’s basic approach is too primitive, even for this palette, and even the grit in which these songs wade can’t cover it up.

The fifth Hookup comes from Mother of Tears, a Chicago three-piece that includes Ross Fisher (formerly of the Brides) and Nathan Jerde (formerly of the Ponys). But the past work of those two really doesn’t work as any sort of primer for the post-Karp ruckus contained herein. “Little Ratty,” the A-side, comes out guitars blazing, but the band knows how to slice the bombast from the cheese, keeping to a righteous path of riff before solo. It’s a gnarly couple of minutes that feels cleansing in its aggression. On the B-side, “In the Morning,” the band gets a little spunkier in its approach, a pogo-beat matched to an almost tender lament. It’s guttural and groovy all at once, like a poppy antidote to the record’s other cut.

The last offering this go-round comes from Chicago mainstay Miss Alex White, who has teamed with her younger brother Francis (on drums) to form White Mystery, her take on the two-person, guitar-and-drums archetype. The A-side serves up two cuts, the first, “Powerglove,” being a heads-down romp that rattles as much as it shakes. Miss Alex’s croon glides over top, filling in the minimal backing’s holes with a soulful roar. “Aaron” (pronounced “ay ron”) is similarly torch-lit, but with a cave-stomp mash of guitar fury and deadened beats. For the B-side, “Ye Olde Stone,” the pair rewires, making ghoulish garage that could be 40 years older. Miss Alex displays as much buzz in her six-string as in her bonnet, and the song pretty much eclipses its antecedents.

There are only four singles left for the Hookup Klub’s first year (I’ll guess they go out in two batches of two), including releases from the Box Elders and Blank Dogs side-project Teeth. They’ll no doubt be worth hearing as well so best to keep your ears peeled.