The Swiss Admiral EP
By: Eric Greenwood
The Revolutionary Hydra follows up its quirky, idiosyncratic if not longwinded opus, The Antiphony, with this slightly more straightforward and ear-catching EP. Catchy pop rarely comes cloaked in this much dissonance and nonchalance; but then again Pavement made a career out of such anti-pop-is-pop sentiment. The Revolutionary Hydra hails from the extreme Northwest and plays a self-deprecating brand of intellectualized indie rock. Loose and jangling guitar arrangements are coupled with strained, translucent vocals- the likes of which you'd hear on a Death Cab For Cutie album (coincidentally, Death Cab For Cutie's vocalist Ben Gibbard sings back-up on a few tracks).
"World's Phair" is somewhat of a nerdy inside joke for the thick glasses and v-neck sweater crowd. The butt of the play on words is indie rock princess Liz Phair, of course. It's a simple, two-chord verse with vocals that steal a page from Lou Barlow's book of tricks on how to get laid. The chorus is an oddly toe-tapping affair, particularly when Allisyn Levy's backing vocals kick in: "And all the kids who showed up/they came because of Liz Phair/but she's not my idea of fun." "Into Yr Thumb" is equally hummable. It sounds like a long lost They Might Be Giants demo not only because of the vocal inflection but also because of its geeky, polysyllabic lyrics. The clanging climax is unexpected but suits the song's laid back, anything goes attitude.
As far as The Revolutionary Hydra is concerned the second half of the 1990's needn't have passed; the band seems happily lost inside of a K Records compilation circa 1992, which, admittedly, isn't a bad place to be. "Multitrack Recording" is awash in noodling, diverging guitars that culminate in a noisy dose of chaotic pop. Ben Gibbard's backing vocals are instantly recognizable and can't help but lend an eerily serious tone to the otherwise jocular atmosphere. Mixing deliberate affectation with thinly veiled silliness, "Bomb Squad" steals the show. The looseness recalls a calmer Trumans Water, but The Revolutionary Hydra is certainly honing this type of haphazardry into a style all its own.
"20,000 Softball Leagues Under The Sea" kicks off with a half-sung/half-laughed wish "to be a cool indie rocker." After such a schizophrenic opening, the song merges into a beautiful verse led by a high-end guitar melody. The pre-chorus gives you chill bumps until you realize that he's talking about "joining 20,000 softball leagues under the sea." At which point you feel silly for falling into the trap. The lyrical silliness conflicts with such an earnest delivery, but that is, of course, the whole point evidenced when Ben Gibbard joins the chorus, singing "I'm in a big hurry/cause my girlfriend's making curry." The absurdity, I assure you, does not escape the band.
With The Swiss Admiral EP, The Revolutionary Hydra confirms its place among the new generation of ironic pop enthusiasts, who just happen to prefer a low fidelity sound. Melodies like these are not a dime a dozen, and five short catchy songs are all you need to drive the point home.