The Hoosiers are one of my favourite bands, with their first album being perhaps one of my favourite of all time and their second producing some of my favourite songs. It’s always worrying when you don’t hear much of a band for a while, and it had been three years-plus before The Hoosiers’ announced that they would be releasing a new album: The News from Nowhere. After splitting with their label Sony, rightfully because of the way they promoted, or rather didn’t, their last album – they decided to go with a crowd-funding option, where people pay up front for the album with some special rewards for those that pay a little more. I signed up and eagerly awaited the album.
The package I received was great. Along with a signed copy of the album in a CD sleeve, there was a 16-page “newspaper” filled with funny little fake news stories, lyric snippets and more. Everyone who ordered the album early enough, including me, also received their name listed in the newspaper (page 4, top middle of third column) which is pretty cool. The best part about it though was an interview with the band themselves, who talk at some length about how it is “wonderful” that they are “doing it [the album] on our own terms” rather than under the pressure of a label. The overwhelming feeling from this interview and what I’ve heard about the band of late showed that they were really happy to be doing things their own way with their new album. It’s great that they are enjoying making music again, but I’m afraid this album doesn’t live up to their last two.
The Hoosiers’ trade mark style, that they coined themselves, was that of “oddpop”. Their music was light, fun, upbeat and just that little bit bonkers. That’s kind of gone now with this album. They’ve grown up a bit it seems. The keyboards and upbeat tempos that used to be there have been taken out. There’s hardly a song on the album that comes close to the feeling and attitude of “Worried About Ray”, “Goodbye Mr. A” or “Bumpy Ride”. It’s not a bad album, but it’s not what I expected.
The opening track, and lead single, of the album eases you into this new Hoosiers. “Somewhere in the Distance” is a slower, more rock oriented song with catchy lyrics. It’s all about the break-up with the label and pushing past it, though: “when the times are tough, we’ll turn them round”, “we’ve got a lot to lose – the stakes are staggering” and perhaps the mantra of the song, “cling on to that sweet, sweet hope, somewhere in the distance”. It’s a good song, and the chorus and melody are definitely up there with the strongest on the album.
Up next is “Make or Break (You Gotta Know)” which is also rather catchy, with a nice bass line, but again on the slower side of things. The song is a great indie track, that fits more with the sort of the style of their first album but without perhaps the same pep in their step.
The rest of the album is a rather melancholy set of tracks that tend to blend into each other. “My Last Fight” and “Handsome” are more acoustic numbers that feel as though they were recorded from an intimate coffee shop gig. They really show the more hand-made feel of this record, which is quite a nice touch.
“Rocket Star” provides some lighter relief in the middle of the album, bringing it to life a little. “To the Lions” sounds like it should belong on one of Franz Ferdinand’s earlier albums, although the lyrics aren’t quite as strong as you would suspect. “Upset” rounds off the more upbeat section of the album with a song that is reminiscent of The Police in its’ guitar parts.
The album closer almost sums up the record, though. Called “Impossible Boy”, it’s a song with drums that build up a little atmosphere whilst the lyrics repeat themselves. Then there’s silence. Towards the end of the track comes another, similarly themed song (which from what I gather is called “Nathan’s Loft”) which left me confused and bemused. It’s a so-so song, with nothing that really sets the world alight about it. I’m afraid that’s what my overall feeling with the album comes down to.
The News from Nowhere is a decent effort from The Hoosiers, as a self-produced album and their first release in four years. It’s quite a departure from their old-school music, not necessarily in a good way, but it would be great to see them have some success with it. I might not be a fan of the album, but I’m still a fan of The Hoosiers. I’m just hoping that if they release another album, it’ll be a little more in-line with their roots.