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Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot

a.c. chapman

Music review

Title: Hot
Band: Squirrel Nut Zippers
Label: Mammoth Recording Company

    It's always difficult for me to say with unwavering certainty that I'm happy when a favorite band starts to make it big. So I'm of two minds about the Squirrel Nut Zippers' current MTV Buzz Bin status. On the one hand, you could search quite a while and not find many groups more deserving of a wide audience than this Chapel Hill, North Carolina band. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm ready for a crop of major-label Squirrel Nut clones.
    The Squirrel Nut Zippers are riding high and ahead of the swing culture revival lurking just below mass-media awareness in many cities across America evidence of which is only as far away as MTV or your local rec hall. And Hot, the Squirrel Nut Zippers' solid second release, is as good a swing album as you're likely to find. The entire album was recorded live in a New Orleans' church, and manages to capture, as successfully as any album can, the energy and freshness of a band that enjoys playing live. Hot moves from upbeat to languid with a seamless, timeless flow.
    Hell, a mambo, is the best song on the album, capturing all the energy and oddity of a music that finds its roots in spiritualism and movement. How could you not like a song whose chorus spells out Damnation in a cheerleader-esque call and response? Bad Businessman continues the theme with shoe-kicking success. Put a Lid on It is the most playful song on Hot, while Blue Angel, It Ain't You, Flight of the Passing Fancy, and Meant To Be deal with familiar themes of love and loss which seem to take on new meaning when cast in this retro light.
    Hot also offers the bonus of coming packaged in CDPlus format. A CDPlus is a new breed a combination musical album and multi-media CDRom which for the most part hasn't lived up to its potential. The multi-media content on most albums released in the CDPlus format, with the exception of Peter Gabriel's ambitious works, has been limited to pretty lame concert footage and sub-par music video sequences. Surprisingly, the CD-Rom aspect of Hot is beautifully done, providing interviews, photos, original art, concert footage, not enough of lead singer and guitarist James Mathus' short film, and interesting insight into what it's like to record and hang out with the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
    There are a few slow points, and I still have a lingering fondness for their brilliantly uneven debut album, The Inevitable Squirrel Nut Zippers, but Hot is definitely an album to add to your collection and keep in regular rotation.

Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2001-03-05 00:00:00