Hunx – Hairdresser Blues

January 01, 1970

(Hardly Art)

 

www.hardlyart.com

 

When I first heard Hunx and His Punx, via the 2011 release, Too Young to Be in Love, I was happy to
say that I enjoyed it. The sound was aggressively lo-fi, retro (as in,
referencing cheesy late ‘50s/early ‘60s classics along the lines of “My
Boyfriend’s Back” and “It’s My Party”), with a weakness for the New Wave’s
jumpy side (the B-52s, Tina Peel, and post-post Pop Punkers, Imperial Teen),
and Bubblegum Pop. The act was absurd, and occasionally, extremely goofy. How
could I not want to ride shotgun, at least from the dive bar to the Dairy
Queen?

 

Moreover, in his way, Seth Bogart, a/k/a Hunx (who has since
dropped the “and His Punx” part of the name; the early Punkettes are history,
and two other guitarists are now joining him live), is pretty politically
strident. His in-your-face gayness can be dizzyingly refreshing; the love child
of a highly unlikely Pee Wee Herman/Fred Schneider union before which two of
John Waters’ less intense epics, say, Pecker and Hairspray, were screened,
back-to-back. His message is clear: Not only should gay people be allowed to
be, they need to have rights. In Hunx’s world, it’s no big deal when gay men
who happen to love rock ‘n’ roll wear skintight jeans with polka-dot shirts,
tubes of lube peeking out of their back pockets.

 

Whatever one feels about his music, it could be said that
Hunx is a nourishing cultural phenomenon; extending the persona and
presentation possibilities in Pop/Rock, and enriching a cultural milieu that’s
increasingly open to diversity. His timing is good. And he could save a number
of souls from feeling chained to the Island of Misfit Toys.

 

Too Young to be in
Love
had a bratty charm and giddy self-parody (not to mention the even
easier-to-heart videos/live performances, with those visuals helping the cause
immensely – as did Bogart’s interaction with the Punkettes). It was easy to
overlook the occasional monotony of Bogart’s songwriting and his youthful,
whiny vocals (apparently he’d like to sound like a teenaged girl. How perfect
need Camp be? And, considering a playing field that could, arguably, use more
of all of the above, how critical should one be regarding this fresh, new
contender?

 

It’s nearly a year later, and we’re talking about the
sophomore effort. It’s time for a sterner, more exacting appraisal. The news
is, basically, modest: On the whole, Hairdresser
Blues
picks up where the first album left off. As the word about Hunx
continues to spread, that may be fine. But there are several issues. One is the
absence of the color added by the Punkettes. Another is, again, the sameness of
the song structures, which suffer the absence of the sort of standout riffs and
hooks that could turn sameness into an addictive substance. Producer Ivan
Julian (of the Voidoids, Outsets, and Lovelies) makes Bogart’s guitar sound as
deliciously single-note rich as it can. His production eschews tricks, such as
the excessive echo and reverb, or other psychedelic effects popular with so
many contemporary retro and/or garage soundmakers.

 

But, hey, hold on: The absence of the relative “noise” of
the Punkettes, which is underscored by Julian’s nearly naked treatment of Hunx solo, reveals interesting signs. Several
Haidresser Blues cuts move beyond
Bogart’s previous, albeit occasionally inspired, tomfoolery. “Private Room,”
for instance, is a tasty slice of Merseybeat-era guitars and surf-city bounce.
It does the same thing, pretty much, over and over. And, as with “Pablo
Picasso” or “Surfin’ Bird,” that same-thing is a very good thing.  Similarly, the familiar sound of “Let Me In”
makes a good case for Bogart’s spin on that familiarity. There’s a joy in
simple — and, for lack of a better descriptor — rather stupid rock ‘n’ roll –
the kind to which New Wavers did unabashed pogo-ing, and Sixties kids did the
Frug. When Bogart hits that sweet spot, he moves beyond gay, straight, Camp,
and parody into a possible future as an at least semi-serious creator of
unusually engaging sounds. In that future, his colorful persona and polka-dot
hijinx may devolve into details; sidenotes.

 

Bogart’s Hardly Art page makes mention of previously uncited
influences (Glam, and the New Zealand-based Dunedin
sound). While I don’t necessarily detect the marks of those inspirers –other
than on “Do You Remember Being a Roller?” which has a bit of Marc Bolan about
it — on Hairdresser Blues, there are
stirrings of growth, and something like maturation. Bogart’s current promo pic
looks more like John Waters’ odd French relative than it does the feckless
young man who bounced around YouTube for several years. There may be more to
the blues of a hairdresser (Bogart co-owns the Down at Lulu’s salon in Oakland,
California) than has
been revealed, to date.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Private Room,” “Do You Remember Being a Roller?,” “Set Them Free,” “Let Me In”
MARY LEARY

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