Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Favorite Recent Album: The Granville Hicks

LAST WEEK WHILE ENJOYING hip pizza in a hipster pizza joint in the hip Mission District of San Francisco, I overheard a table of hipsters talking about The Granville Hicks. "Have you seen the album cover?" one asked. "They look like retarded Avett Brothers."

With various densities of facial hair, The Granville Hicks, do, in fact, resemble the Avetts, though, it must be said, the Hicks seem slightly less evolved.

That's until you listen to the music.

The first cut on the new EP, "I Want to be a Marxist Cowboy," underscores the band's earnestness--both in terms of musicianship and political leanings.

If Toby Keith can link anti-Muslim sentiment with the triumphalism of American culture, then The Granville Hicks can link the blue collar working-class value system of the American cowboy with the philosophy of Karl Marx. There has long been a secret handshake between country music and capitalism, but with this new album, The Granville Hicks give the latter the finger.

Like many Merle Haggard or Conway Twitty songs, the Hicks interlace talking with singing. However, what distinguishes these tracks from classic talking songs like "Hello Darlin'," is the fact that the Hicks begin some of their songs with readings from Marx. Casual listeners might expect "Back in the Party Again" to be about tequila, but in fact, it's about Communist Party enrollment.

From a musical perspective, it's hard to figure out what all three of the Hicks do. With only one voice and one guitar on most of the tracks, it has lead some to speculate that the three members of the band rotate duties, so as to share, equally, in the labor and distribution of their musical goods.

Having dubbed their brand of music "Communist Country" and "Marxist Twang," the Hicks might swim in dangerous waters. Country music has pretty much staked out patriotism. Its lifeguards tend to let only certain kinds of swimmers in the pool, and our fear here at TWR is that they will let the Hicks drown.

Unless readers and listeners like you become the life vest the Hicks need.

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