The Hippos

Heads Are Gonna Roll

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The Hippos draw from all sorts of influences, but they really couldn't have existed any other time than the late '90s. A band weened on new wave that came of age during the alt-rock boom of the early '90s, the Hippos are gleeful magpies, borrowing from any kind of post-punk pop they've ever heard. At their core, they're a ska-punk band, but they're a ska-punk band whose lives were changed by Weezer. Rentals-esque synthesizers are all over the Hippos' major-label debut Heads Are Gonna Roll, but that's not the only concession to new wave-fueled post-grunge. Like their pseudo-ska peers Smash Mouth and No Doubt, the Hippos have a way with a hook and a love for good-times, which gives them the uncanny aura of being New Wave one-hit wonders. That, of course, is something of a problem, since one-hit wonders are notorious for producing one memorable tune, which is always surrounded by filler on the full-length record. The Hippos dodge that problem on Heads Are Gonna Roll by having it sound like a collection of one-hit wonders instead of a cohesive album. Neat trick, actually, because it results in a breezy, fun listen. That doesn't mean that it's consistent -- a lot of songs are rather faceless ska-punk and the de rigeur new wave cover of "Always Something There to Remind Me" is clunky -- but it is fun. And, by the end of the record, it sinks in why the group stands apart from their ska-ed out peers. Sure, there's the heavy Weezer/Rentals influence, and that's the gateway to their uniqueness: their geekiness. Lead vocalist Ariel at times uncannily resembles John Flansburgh, and They Might Be Giants' nerdy take on pop is apparent throughout the record. They're geeks that are ready to party with their new wave-polished Orange County ska, and they have a pretty good party on their hands with Heads Are Gonna Roll.

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