The Hand

Second Hand

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No matter from which angle you choose to attack Second Hand as a listening experience, it is exploding with a brilliance of ideas. And no matter how you slice it in the end, it is the radical clarion call of a band so masterful it was eventually forced to split into two equally amazing units. Recorded in the same yearlong flurry of activity that would result in its only officially released album, the minor masterpiece Mule Me, this was in actuality the Hand's coming-out party, though unreleased at the time it was made. It is also a sister album to Church of Betty's Blossom & Decay, and recorded over the same two-day stretch on the same gear by Kenny Siegal and Brian Geltner. The band itself called its style of music "smashmouth lo-fi," and there is no better description, especially since the album covers such an astonishing amount of compositional ground over its eight songs. The music does differ in a few significant ways from what would later emerge from the Hand. Chris Rael, for instance, takes all the vocal leads rather than sharing duties with Siegal. And Second Hand does not feature the same diverse range of instrumental and experimental sounds, sticking by and large to the traditional power trio format with occasional trumpet and organ embellishments. Otherwise, it is every bit as revelatory, chaotic, risk-taking, potent, and outstanding, garnering a lower rating than Mule Me only because of its less polished production values and because there is literally less to it, in duration (it runs only a clean 30 minutes) rather than in musical quality. For those keeping score of the Church of Betty/Johnny Society/the Hand continuum, "The Sky" later turned up on Johnny Society's Clairvoyance and "Electric Chair" on Church of Betty's Tripping With Wanda. And for audiophiles (as well as those who wish to keep their windows intact), there is a potent bass tone midway through "Repulsion" that could even pop a deaf man's eardrums.

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