The Hentchmen

Form Follows Function

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Somewhere down the line, longtime Detroit garage rock primitives the Hentchmen learned something about the importance of production values, and if you know them best from their stripped-to-the-bone early albums such as Ultra Hentch and Campus Party, then 2004's Form Follows Function may come as a bit of a surprise. By the Hentchmen's standards, Form Follows Function is downright slick, with clean and crisp engineering, a snappy drum sound, occasional sound effects, vocals and instruments that are actually in tune and in time, and a mix that actually involves panning and such -- in short, it doesn't appear to have been recorded in someone's rec room, unlike the majority of their efforts. But before any longtime fans begin howling "sell out," to these ears adding a bit of polish and buffing off the rough spots only makes it easier to tell that The Hentchmen write really cool songs, and play 'em with the right balance of style and sweat. John Szymanski's vocals finally get the attention they deserve, and he sounds tough and soulful throughout, while the spunky snap of Szymanski's keyboards (he lets go of his Farfisa to play piano and other stuff on some cuts), Tim Purrier's guitar, and Mike Latulippe's drums remain as solid as ever, just better recorded. The Hentchmen have always known how to play a great gig, but now they've learned how to make a record, and while an excess of craft is usually the downfall of a garage band, Form Follows Function is one example where a little technique in the right places goes a long, long way. (The CD also includes a bonus video you can play on your computer for the song "Love," which as it happens is pretty cool and enjoyably soggy.)

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