Laughing Hyenas


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Replacing the rhythm section doesn't make that much of a difference with most rock bands, but the Laughing Hyenas were no ordinary group, and when bassist Kevin Strickland and drummer Jim Kimball turned in their notices in 1992, it seemed unlikely that the Hyenas would be able to easily find new players who could duplicate their rare combination of bruising force and unpretentious intelligence. As a result, the Laughing Hyenas' first EP with their new lineup, Crawl, captured the band in a transitional stage. New drummer Todd Swalla is a much more subtle timekeeper than Kimball, and bassist Kevin Reis seems content to stay in the background, leaving guitarist Larissa Strickland to take up more of the slack, and she rises ably to the occasion, offering up leads that are a good bit more fluid and melodic than the waves of noise she unleashed on Life of Crime and You Can't Pray a Lie. Meanwhile, vocalist John Brannon's angry, anguished howls are as paint-peeling as ever, and given the band's somewhat less ferocious attack, they seem even more extreme by comparison, though on the title cut he shows a new sense of restraint and dynamics that pointed to the direction the band would take on their next album. To use a sporting metaphor, Crawl found the Laughing Hyenas in the midst of a rebuilding year; they weren't playing badly, but it would be a little while before the new lineup was fully up to speed.

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