My good friend and fellow music writer DM Jones once said of Kevin Hambrick, “Psychedelic rockers, guitar-pop nuggets and poignant acoustic numbers coexist easily in Hambrick’s world.” No truer statement could be made of the musical world of Kevin Hambrick. He’s been a Fort Wayne music staple for the better part of the 21st century, having released albums under his own name as well as with his main gig the Orange Opera. Regardless of which musical outlet the songs are coming from they’re always engaging, endearing, and good enough that you wonder how Hambrick hasn’t gotten national attention and a record deal with Fat Possum, Merge, or Sub Pop by now. He’s buddies with Dr. Dog, he’s done a Daytrotter Session, and with Orange Opera covered the Beatles at a Down The Line.
What’s a guy gotta do to get some respect around here?
Until Kevin Hambrick is touring the globe and dropping records for big time indie labels he will continue to drop some of the best local releases you’re likely to hear. Clitter and the Clatter, his newest album, is no different. To my ears it’s his best record yet. Filled with the Beatlesesque twists and turns, Robyn Hitchcock pop savagery, and 70s AM-inspired pop radio hooks that we’ve come to know and love about Kevin Hambrick, Clitter and the Clatter feels a little more lush and a little more personal. There’s an urgency in the delivery. Simply put, Kevin Hambrick hasn’t sounded better.
As per usual, Hambrick wrote, recorded, and performed the album himself. That adds an intimacy to songs like the lilting “Wake Up And Recover”, “Anybody Care?(Keep Singin’)” and the John Lennon-heavy “If It Helps(Stay All Night)”. But what we’re greeted with at the door is the rip-roaring “Under The Gun”. An explosive punk-inspired guitar rocker. But more like The Soft Boys punk. I hear a lot of Robyn Hitchcock in Hambrick’s songs. There’s a real abrasiveness in Hambrick’s barn burners, but at the heart of it all is still very much pop music. “Why Not With Me” is a wonky pop song that feels part Dr. Dog and part XTC. It’s one of those songs that the more you play it the deeper it roots into your head, and next thing you know you’re humming it on the drive to work.
Elsewhere “Same Condition” has a “Secret Agent Man” vibe while adding hints of Wondermints and Feelies. “People Like You” is a jaunty acoustic number. Beautifully sung vocals, harmonies soar, and George Harrison-like guitar. This could’ve been a White Album outtake, easily.
Kevin Hambrick also has the ability to come across as some bearded sage. In the course of a 3 minute pop track you feel like you might’ve heard some of the best advice of your life, all the while tapping your foot as it’s happening. “High Tide” has an almost Cabaret feel to it. You can almost see a haze of smoke and hear the tinkling of glasses as Hambrick sings “High Tide is coming”. “We Go To Bed” closes Clitter and the Clatter on a gorgeous piano-led song. Part Plastic Ono balladry, part Harry Nilsson show tune, “We Go To Bed” is the definitive “goodbye” track.
Kevin Hambrick continues to astound. Clitter and the Clatter is the best album he’s released yet, and if the world were a just place he’d be mentioned in every music rag with an ounce of integrity. Until that happens, I’m sure Kevin will continue to make amazing music with nothing more than a single microphone, a digital 4-track, and a head full of melodies.
8.2 out of 10
Clitter and the Clatter will be formally released Saturday, February 22nd. Go to Kevin Hambrick’s Bandcamp page to indulge in previous albums, then get your ears on Clitter and the Clatter Saturday.