Outside Closer

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Calling Hood the post-rock Madonna would be a stretch, but it's a comparison worth considering. For well over a decade now, the Leeds band has been nothing if not attentive, picking up on new trends within their sphere, evaluating them, and incorporating the good ideas into their records as they simultaneously refine themselves -- all this while seeming to arrive at their songs with the finesse of a wayward drunk stumbling into a doorway that just happens to lead to a bar stool. Occasionally they take the good ideas and improve upon them. And they always sound like Hood, even when they sound like the best Bark Psychosis tribute band imaginable. 2001's Cold House was where it all peaked. Convincing abstract hip-hop and (especially) glitches played significant roles, and the songs rang with stark, frostbitten clarity. On Outside Closer (the title nearly looks like an anagram of "Cold House"), the songs are wearier than ever and full of life at the same time, with each element seeming to fall into place by sheer luck. They've all but completely dispensed with the glitches ("The Lost You" being a minor exception, featuring a jerky, attention-grabbing intro), and there aren't any verses from guest MCs, though Anticon-style hip-hop continues to be an inspiration. Any unexpected curve balls are discreet, as in "The Negatives," where an Italian seaside butts up against a Northern England moor. This is the most reliant the band has been on traditional song form, altered only by those vast echo chamber effects you're accustomed to hearing from them. It's hard to imagine the band coming up with a pair of albums as vividly bleak and thoroughly moving as Cold House and this one. If there's any band that makes a case for thaw-out (as opposed to chillout), it's Hood.

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