Weep's Never Ever marks Doc Hammer's return to the world of music from the world of The Venture Bros. Though he's probably better known for his work on the sharply satiric Adult Swim cartoon, Hammer is no stranger to making music of the darkwave persuasion; Hammer was a founding member of goth darlings Requiem in White and Mors Syphilitica. Even with that pedigree, any expectations are likely to be misplaced as Weep's sonic aesthete differs greatly from that of his earlier projects. Whereas Requiem in White and Mors Syphilitica both relied upon layers of sound as the backdrop for operatic female vocals, Weep focuses on a driving combination of gothic rock and shoegaze sensibilities and features Hammer's own reverberating, understated vocals. Never Ever shows the influence of 80s post-punk, but has enough subtle embellishments to make this more than a retread. Plus, the disc looks like a tiny record and comes in a LP-like sleeve...can't beat that. Rating: 4.5/5
Let’s get this out of the way first: Weep is a band from New York which includes Doc Hammer, he of Venture Bros. fame and the object of much fangirl (and fanboy) love the world over. Now that we’ve covered that, let’s also address the probability that there a lot of people are going to pretend to like Weep because it is Doc Hammer’s band. But they would be wrong to do so.
For one thing, Weep is not Doc’s vanity project; even though there are many photos of him on their MySpace page, there are equally as many photos of the other members of the band— Fred Macarag, Alex Malfunction, and Bill Kovalcik—as there are of Mr. Hammer. And all have suitably witty and self-deprecating captions.
Indeed, Doc Hammer is a person who seemingly cannot breathe without being witty. Yet, those fans I spoke of earlier? They’d be wrong to pretend to like Weep’s debut album, Never Ever, simply because Doc Hammer has a terrific sense of humor. Those fans will probably be quite surprised to find they like it because it’s actually a good album.
There’s a lot going on in these eight songs: I sense snippets of influence from My Bloody Valentine, Sisters Of Mercy, Cocteau Twins, and late 80s The Cure. In fact, Weep sounds like they like all of these bands (and more), which is in no way an insult, especially for those of us who also like all those bands and never stopped listening to those bands, long after the 80s had ended.
The first track, “Lay There And Drown” recalls “Someone’s Calling” by Modern English, you know, one of their songs that is not the abysmal “I Melt With You” and is therefore terrific. “Lay There And Drown” is also a terrific song and it introduces what I will refer to henceforth as “Weep’s Signature Drum Sound” (provided by Bill Kovalchik). Since I am not a musician, I can’t give you some fancy term for it, but trust me, when you hear it you will know and love it immediately.
Another thing which may surprise people is Doc’s singing voice. Not to belabor the point by bringing up that whole Venture Bros. thing again, but Doc does not sound like Dr. Girlfriend or Henchman #21. I’m not sure what I expected his singing voice to sound like, but I was startled and surprised. Normally I don’t much cotton to gravelly voices, but guess what? This works for me.
“The Hole” has a pretty waterfall of keyboards, “Weep’s Signature Drum Sound,” and a genuinely catchy chorus. “One Lock, One Key” honestly sounds like some long-lost 80s track that was discovered in the WTUL New Orleans vaults after their fire in the mid-80s (not to belabor that whole 80s point again, either). I would not be at all surprised to dig out one of my old taped-from-the-radio mixes and find it sandwiched in between Clan of Xymox and Skinny Puppy’s “Assimilate.” Doc’s voice is ragged here, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s even more ragged on “The Wanting House” where he sings about a house with locked doors and black windows. (If that sounds stereotypically Goth, or whatever you might think Weep is, I direct you once more to their Manifesto, specifically point number 7.)
There is a great, piercing guitar motif in “Ever Shy” and Doc’s vocal, which is reminiscent of Daniel Ash, is pretty (wistful, even), thus making the song even lovelier. I would go so far as to call this song grand. I’ve seen several blog comments and reviews of Never Ever that pay particular attention to “Su Promesa.” These people are wise to mention it, as it’s a great song. There’s a sad-sounding, almost Marco Pirroni-like guitar twang, which builds on a heavy bass sound and another repeating guitar riff to create something which sticks in your ear. And again, it really does feel like 1986 again. Astonishing! (Screw The Killers and all these other lightweights who think they are 80s revivalists or whatever the hell stupid critics call them.)
My favorites are the last two tracks. “Can’t Be True” begins with almost a full minute’s worth of feedback (and I am a sucker for feedback) and adds layers as it goes. First, a sinister drumbeat, then melancholy guitars, and then swirling keyboards. The robotic, detached sound of Doc’s processed vocals is a superb counterpoint to the pathos of the lyrics. The droning, repetitive build of tension never quite releases you from its grasp, but draws you in until it pushes you closer to a precipice of chiming bells and operatic keyboards. “The Weep” begins with a whining guitar riff and some echoe-y drums and more of that minimalist drone. There are some beautiful jangly guitar bits and sweeping keyboards that make the vocals exquisitely sad and enthralling.
And then it’s over. Drat. But I can always play it again (and again!) and wait for the next Weep album. Believe me, I can’t wait to hear it.
You may recognize Doc Hammer's name from the The Venture Bros., a show on Adult Swim he co-writes with Jackson Publick (aka Christopher McCulloch). But, what you may not know is that he's also a skilled painter and musician. In fact, Hammer has been a part of numerous bands including Mors Syphilitica, and Madison Strays. However, unlike those bands, Weep features Doc Hammer as a vocalist, as well as the band's guitarist. The band also includes members, Fred Macaraeg on bass, Alex Malfunction on keyboards, and Bill Kovalcikon on drums.
The band's first album, Never Ever, just released last week, but don't expect to find it in stores. The album is sold exclusively through Projekt.com, and will cost you roughly $8 plus shipping. The album ships in a cardboard sleeve that just fits the disc, of which is designed to look like a vinyl record, going so far as being made of black plastic. So while it may not be the greatest casing, the novelty is there. And being the first release from Astrobase Go Recordings, what more did you expect from a company run on retro awesomeness?
However, I'm here to discuss the music, so let's do that. The album contains eight tracks, and runs for a total of about 30 minutes, but despite that factor, it works well as each song offers something unique. Officially labeled as post-punk, and shoegaze, the tracks obviously have a dark feel to them; so if bubbly pop and/or hardcore thrash are you thing, I suggest you look the other way. However, for Doc's vocals, the dark tone and fuzzy sound, typical of shoegaze, works really well. It's not all dark though, "The Hole", the second track of the album is very lively with it's prominent keyboard sound throughout the song; and a track like "Ever Shy" has a nice mix of both dark and upbeat tunes. And yet, those are seemingly the opposite sound of the final track, "The Weep", and its very goth-like sound. None the less, the highlights of the album for me were "Lay There And Drown", "Su Promesa" (which actually reminded me of early Soundgarden when I heard it open), and as mentioned before, "Ever Shy".
But like most albums, it obviously sounds best when listened to as a whole. And being that it's sold exclusively online in CD format, it's not like you have the choice to not listen to it as a whole. But seriously, all of the albums eight tracks flow right into each other, as do the first and last tracks, so looping almost goes unnoticed. So if your in the need for something that's not mainstream, and dark, while not being too dark, take the chance and get this for the low price that it is. However, if dark and mellow isn't your thing, your loss. Personally, the fact that I can now take "Su Promesa" with me on the go and leave it on repeat is worth the price alone.