Although one may find earlier recordings in the discography of Bottom of the Hudson, Fantastic Hawk is, in fact, the group's first full-length album recorded as such. (The Omaha Record and Songs from the Barrel Commando were collections of demos; Holiday Machine and the split 12" with Coyote were EPs.) It is also the first Bottom of the Hudson recording made by a real band, previous outings really being solo efforts by leader Eli Simon, who now has relocated from Charlottesville, VA, to Philadelphia and enlisted drummer Chris Coello, bass player Trevor Butler, and guitarist Mike Prince. Bottom of the Hudson is still a product of Simon's vision, however, and he retains his sense of simplicity. From the opening title track, a choral round, through to the finger-picked finale, "Calculating Wire," Simon sets up simple, repetitive guitar riffs as support for his reflective lyrics, sung in a variety of arrangements from close-mic'ing to filtered and double-tracked sheens. It's a primitivist approach that has been taken by many over the last 40 years; pretty much every one of the riffs can be found on a Velvet Underground record, and they've been used by others since, of course. But the variations in the music come with the intensity with which it's played. Simon and co. may be repeating the same few notes over and over throughout each song, but they play harder or softer, louder or more quietly, faster or slower, to create their dramatic effects. This is rock & roll stripped to its basics, and, even if overly familiar, still effective.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann