On one hand, Chicago’s Hollows seem like a novel twist on the current garage-pop trend, adding syrupy, old-timey girl-group harmonies and a bit of rockabilly twang. They’re retro, but not in a gimmicky way; this style is legitimate in today’s climate as long as you’ve got the songs to back it up. In fact, if another band hadn’t already pulled this off a couple years ago with way, way better songs and far more pizzazz and vigor, I might enjoy Vulture quite a bit. But another band has, so I don’t.
What I would love is if everyone would find a copy of this album and listen to it and write down a one-sentence impression of it. Then, if you would, go buy a copy of Sweet Sounds Of…The Sugar Stems and listen to that (okay fine, or you could just listen to it here...and then buy it), and see if your opinion changes. They’re not exactly the same style, of course, but similar enough. Y’know, some people will be predisposed to agreeing with me before they’ve listened to a note, but some people will develop a contrarian opinion just from having read this, and maybe some people will take more away from that fresh first impression of Hollows. One way or another, there would be good things said about Vulture that I can’t come up with.
“Big Decisions” is undeniably a really good song, puzzling in terms of mood, unpolished but shiny. “Field Fire On Jordan Street” and “Up & Down” are decent, slightly unusual and somewhat memorable. The rest of the songs lack any real spark. Much of the blame falls on producer Mark Freitas, but he’s not at fault for how monotonous the tone of the album is; that’s due to too many songs that sound too similar and lack any sort of dynamic. The cheesy synth and sloppy drumming of “Oh Why” and the “scrappy” lead guitar in “Golden Chain” border on incompetence. “Rather See Me Blue” and “Shapeshifter” and “Bobby Blueheart” skirt a fine line between annoying and boring. It’s all relative, of course, but I can’t go back in time and not listen to songs like “If You Want Me To” and “What’s A Girl To Do” and “Make You Love Me”, Sugar Stems tunes that blow away everything on Vulture. Hollows probably haven't heard those songs, but that's no excuse.