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Friday, August 29, 2008

CD Review: Hand to Hand - Breaking the Surface EP

Hand to Hand - Breaking the Surface EP
2008 Lifeforce Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Orlando's Hand to Hand calls to mind in name the underappreciated nineties hardcore group Face to Face, yet the longer you analyze the generation gap between both bands, the less you feel inclined to disseminate them. Sure, Face to Face was perhaps fiercer, but there was a raw honesty and underlying melodicism in Face to Face that can also be found in their juniors, a rare saving grace when you consider the brick wall modern punk and hardcore has found itself staring blankly into, coughing out a fabricated rage with little empathy.

Although vocalist Robert Kellom is the lone wolf prowling from the incarnation of Hand to Hand that recorded the 2005 full-length A Perfect Way to Say Goodbye, the 2008 version means business even in a hypothetical testing ground EP. Sure, we can lump Breaking the Surface into the screamo/emocore category if absolutely necessary, but there is a pleasant degree of focus and edginess beneath the pop-laden grooves and choruses on "Shark Week" and "Paint This Town Black" that swerves the updated Hand to Hand away from their shaggy and drapey stereotypes, even as they would have no problem settling in nicely on a set between Misery Signals, Emery and Thursday.

Despite the random propensity to wail and screech like their socks are frustratingly too loose and jamming the bottoms of their sneakers as is the case with many of their contemporaries, Hand to Hand can jack up a fast-tempoed cut like "Bullets For Teeth" and still maintain an unwavering stream of harmony that makes the speedy and interchanging song ring as the EP's driving anthem. Just the urgent drumming and note-swirling intro to "Dufresne, Party of Six" is a savvy set-up to a song that settles into a pop rock tune, given lift by occasional breakaway velocity.

If you're of the age Hand to Hand largely plays to, Breaking the Surface is going to be a quick-shot crowd pleaser full of youthful ambition and spirited tunefulness. Even for everyone else, this is a punchy, non-committal restart of a neo-punk revival group that is smarter than your average five pack of emodroops. Spin it a few times and let it charm you...

Rating: ***1/2

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