What’s in an album title? Just Enough Hip to Be Woman seems an odd choice, unmemorable at best, disconcertingly sexist at worst and not helped by noticing that Broncho’s debut album was titled Can’t Get Past the Lips. Just Enough Hip to Be Woman is the second album from Oklahoma’s Broncho and their first for Dine Alone Records, the Canadian home for bands like Wytches, Eagulls, DZ Deathrays and Dodos amongst many others. The quartet recently garnered attention when their track “It’s On“ was hand picked by Lena Dunham as closing music in the third series of Girls. This, along with lead single “Class Historian“, which was playlisted by BBC 6Music and used in an ad for Tinder (I know I’m old and boring, but a dating app based on physical appearance? Really the best choice?), has provided a platform that this album tries hard to clutch on to.
Opener “What“ is fine but not much more than that. It’s a pleasant enough indie rock jangler, reminiscent of The Strokes earlier songs. What is immediately apparent is a talent for vocal melodies and hooks over basic guitar rhythms. We also get our first introduction to the band’s liberal use of “Whoa-Whoa-Whoa” style singing.
The pace picks up immediately on “Class Historian“. If you’ve heard this song previously it’s unlikely you’ve forgotten it. Here the “Whoa Whoa’s” have become “Do Do Da’s” sung high pitched and fast paced. It’s tacky (the adhesive kind of tacky, not tasteless) in the extreme, like someone has just emptied a can of spray-mount directly onto your brain. Does this help or hinder what is otherwise a thoroughly decent garage rock song? Undecided. Whether it’s this band’s “Pumped Up Kicks“ I’m not so sure but you can’t miss it.
The next three tracks pass by pleasantly. “Deena“ rocks along playfully sounding a little like Imperial Teen. The same can be said for “Stay Loose“ which is a little slower in pace but has enough going for it to maintain the album’s early flow. “NC-17“ adds something a little different with a wailing squall of guitar (thankfully not quite a solo) adding an extra dimension to what we’ve heard previously.
Midway through proceedings there’s a lull: “I’m Gonna Find Out Where He’s At“, the slightly lazy Jesus and the Mary Chain-esque “Stop Tricking” and “Taj Mahal“, a darker sounding dirge, not a poor song but is spoiled by baffling lyrics. “It’s hard to say who’s having sex, is anybody having sex? It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard”. I’d suggest that when it comes to that business that the singer should just mind his own.
The last three numbers get things back on track. The aforementioned “It’s On“ is a stand out (well spotted Lena). It punches through it’s two minutes with style. It’s a great upbeat guitar song that’ll stay with you but without pushing the boundaries of potential annoyance. With “Kurt“ we’re on to “ Na Na- Na Na” vocal hooks on top of guitars that switch from fuzz to jangle. The singing style is laid back, almost lackadaisical but it’s a winning formula. The longer closing track “China“ is a much better example of the darker, more menacing feel that I think the band were trying to capture in the middle of this album.
There’s enough happening here to grab and hold the listener’s interest for the half hour playing time. There’s hooks and melodies all over the place. My main gripe lies with the production. It’s all very smooth sounding, polished and shined to within an inch of it’s life. Probably to try and appeal to a wider audience, have a hit, and make some money but energy seems to evaporate out of the speakers. Turn the guitars up a bit more, raise the vocals occasionally, let it all go like on “It’s On” where there’s more spirit than elsewhere on the record. On a positive note I think it’ll sound great live with volume and enthusiasm. There’s certainly enough about the band to keep an ear out for and they’ll be a decent watch next summer in the mid-afternoon sun during festival season.
Just Enough Hip To Be Woman is out on 8th December 2014 on Dine Alone Records