The Karl Hendricks Trio

Declare Your Weapons

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Following a wholesale lineup change to a fully new rhythm section in the persons of Caulen Kress and Noah Leger, the trio kept on keeping on with Declare Your Weapons, which on the face of it is more of what the band had already been doing, but in ways is a refinement of the same. Hendricks himself has the art of sharp-enough, sprawling-enough feedback down, with oddly off-kilter solos on songs like "Like John Travolta" adding to the appeal. Even the more straightforward efforts on "Surrender on Demand," and "The Policeman's Not Your Friend" do the business. But the real trick is in his lyrics, and specifically how he sings them, creating a voice which is both suave and unsettled, sometimes suddenly stretching and squeaking and others almost coolly diffident. It's been part of his approach from the start, but here one could imagine him applying it in a story-telling voice as much as in a singing one, never letting itself be buried in the mix. Added to the quick tempo blast of "A Letter to the Coach" and "The Smile That Made You Give Up," it's forceful but not overbearing, to the slower pace of "Your Lesbian Friends" -- a wonderful portrayal of confusion by both narrator and the titular folks over a woman's romantic choice -- it captures a mood just so. Other lyrical winners include "Know More About Jazz" -- perhaps the only song in recent years about the power of rock that doesn't sound like patronizing post-Nick Hornby hoohah (doesn't hurt that the song really does rock!) -- and the scathing "When Will the Goddamn Poor Wise Up?" The latter is just the right thing to play at the former friend who only wants to talk about investments and their new car these days.

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