It's hard to talk about bands you don't know. I feel like there should be a mental block when you describe a band that has a solid fan base, but that you've only listened to a handful of times. Nevertheless, you have to start somewhere, and every band (well, most bands) deserves a listen. So I go forth into the unknown: Illinois' What the Hell Do I Know?.
The first impression I got was the band's "biography," written by a friend who spent some amount of time hanging out with the band. It doesn't really describe the music at all, except that it fits Illinois' hometown of Bucks County, Pennsylvania quite well. The biographer mostly just talks about how cool the guys in the band are and throws out a little too many inside jokes. This kind of threw me off; since the bio told me nothing about what the band sounded like, I still felt in the dark. And I realized I don't really want to hear about inside jokes or how rowdy the guys in the band get, because I'm only in charge of judging the music. Somewhat confused and a little cynical already, I started the disc.
This debut EP started out surprisingly well. The opening track "Alone Again" reminded me a whole lot of American Analog Set. Mid-tempo drums and echo-y guitars give way to some simple piano lines and soft vocals. This is my favorite of the seven tracks on this record, and it caught my ear after the questionable biography threw me off. The second track, "Nosebleed," starts out with a kind of quaint banjo track and is later joined by Detachment Kit-sounding vocals. The songs don't quite flow, but experiment with a few different sounds and instruments. They are loosely centered around an "indie rock" sound, as non-descript as that may be, and I only use that term because they don't bind themselves to one sect of this genre.
Overall, this is a decently solid effort. The bouncing around of different sounds kind of throws me off, because I'll find myself liking one song a lot and hating the next. But you can tell that the different sounds are the appeal of this band. The music spoke louder than the initial impression of funny party guys. I'm curious to see what this band does in the future; maybe they'll stick with one sound and just run with it.
6.8 / 10
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