The Hangovers

Slow Dirty Tears

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Gina Birch is probably always going to be primarily known for what she did with the Raincoats. The sole album by the Hangovers, the post-Raincoats band she fronted on vocals and guitar, remains obscure even to some Raincoats fans. For those who like her idiosyncratic vocals and the overall eclectic mixtures of post-punk styles she brings to her music, however, it's well worth checking out, and not simply a repeat of the kind of discs the Raincoats made. The material Birch presents is more or less in line with the Raincoats' stream-of-consciousness-type observations on seesawing, occasionally extreme pains and pleasures, sometimes sardonically humorous, sometimes tormented. Her singing remains among the most distinctive vocals of her alternative rock generation, if perhaps something of an acquired taste; its wracked and weathered textures are slightly comparable to Marianne Faithfull in those regards. Where this departs most from the Raincoats is in the varied musical arrangements. Not that the Raincoats lacked variety, but this veers between haunting nearly industrial soundscapes; echoes of the dub-reggae-rock collisions so prominent in some of the Raincoats' work; nearly danceable funky electro-pop ("Sweetest Pain" almost sounds like it could be a club-targeted single); almost late-'70s David Bowie-ish noir-ish rock; and rather accessible, breezy guitar-oriented tunes with appealingly dark melodies ("Soho" being a standout). That does work against solidifying a Hangovers group identity and makes this seem like more of a Gina Birch solo album, though there are consistently inventive touches of miscellaneous sounds in what's essentially a song-oriented disc. It's clear, too, that two decades after starting her recording career, she's not any more complacent or less restless than she was at the outset, delivering the sentiments of "We Had a Really Smashing Time" and "Sitting on Top of the World" with cynicism totally undercutting the surface bathos of the lyrics.

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