Never Got Hip

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Never Got Hip Review

by Jack Rabid

Well-named, this LP, much more so than its predecessor. The Scotland four's smashing 1998 debut Spread It All Around was virtually spread nowhere. "Never Got Hip?" More like "Never Got Heard." If I told you to go out and get some Foil, you'd come back with some Reynolds Wrap for sure. And for the second straight time, that's unfair. Even without the great Paul Tipler to assist them this time, Foil still storm, right from the crunching backbeat intro of the opening title track, laying on the riffs thick, tight, powerful, and tempestuous. The backing guitar leads soar, the bass rumbles, the drums thunder, and the entire post-punk beast is revived in all its ornery grandeur. Best of all, for the second straight platter, these Brits are steeped in variety, dusting in liberal doses of slow tempos, more pensive sways, and less dense auras. There are even three thoughtful, lithe, lovely, string-laden ballads: "Groundwork," with its coda's lovely string quartet, "The Ghost of Vernon Howell," and the closing "Claremont Junction Optimist." In short, it provides a bit of catharsis after all the drama. If Foil, despite such strengths and flexibility, are just short of the top league, with Idlewild's second LP, first-two-LPs China Drum, midtempo Bad Religion, Sebadoh, recent Superchunk, and the dearly missed Compulsion, it's because they lack a remarkable singer. Singer Hugh (of no last name) is still inconsistent, screeching too much on the chorus of "Superhero #1" and elsewhere, and sometimes fighting the smart melodies. It doesn't kill the gratification, though. It's just a nagging regret. And when the vocals are spot-on, as on the LP standouts "Half Life Bunker" and the smokin' "I'll Take My Chances," Foil are one of the best bands on the planet.

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