Hi all, it’s me! Your wandering duck, (out of Shanghai right now, but with you YYT-dwellers in spirit), to present to you here this album review of Honeyed and Killed, by my darlings in Hedgehog/(刺猬). I was lucky enough to catch these Beijing-ren a few times performing in Shanghai, most recently during their opening slot for The Thermals. Aside from putting together a tight set, the band really impressed me with their emotional songwriting and the fact that drummer, and vocalist once, Atom kept her turtleneck sweater on for the entire forty-five minutes set.
After their last LP release, Blue Daydreaming, Hedgehog fans were rocked by the departure of founding member and bassist Box in January of 2010. Many feared for the very survival of the group, especially considering the remaining two members, Atom and ZO, already had their own side project, the B-Side Lovers. Luckily for us, it is clear their resolve had always been clear, and Atom and ZO had already charted a course for this album, and they committed to following it.
Honeyed And Killed is safe but solid, like Hedgehog shows I’ve attended, which have always been rocking but also introspective and somewhat restrained. This time around, a dark atmosphere of anxiety and angst envelopes the whole album, although there are some moments of fun and bravado. Lyrics center around love and death, murder, drug experimentation, basically what we were unabashedly obsessed with as teenagers, and are now still secretly obsessed (yes, I am talking to you). The song “Sparklehorse” is a highlight of the album and an example of how Honeyed And Killed veers quickly from light to dark. The song lurches from a fast-paced, racous joy and suddenly hits the breaks to plunge the listener into a morose, naval-gazing chorus. It’s a thrilling ride.
New bassist Xiao Nan hits the ground running. Hedgehog is a three piece so they can’t afford to bring on any dead weight. Xiao Nan is a solid supporting player through most of the album, but his bass lines often take a pretty good tune and make it completely awesome. Let’s take the album’s title track, where the guitar moves from a delicate riff into fuzzy chords. My new hero, Xiao Nan, seamlessly takes on the melody and playfully propells the song into something absolutely lovely and sublime.
In addition to bringing up some latent teenage angst in me, the album brought on a powerful wave of nostalgia. Not for Shanghai (though I do miss you, SH, you tempestuous ex-lover!), but for the indie rock scene music scene of the 1990’s. The atmosphere and guitar sounds in “The End” and “Crazy Love and Deal” evoke bands like Soul Asylum, Oasis, and Garbage, but twee brushes added by songs like “Orange,” and the dueling tempos of “Sparklehorse” keep the album with one foot comfortably in the here and now.
The production through most of the album is tight and understated, but gets a little more experimental towards the end. The final track begins with a simple voice and acoustic guitar line, but moves towards a haunting duet between a devastated man and women who sounds to me like some ghostly and detached voice-mail message, remarking on the scene from above. She’s the apathetic partner thwarting his unrestrained passion. Her spoken Mandarin commentary in sweetly punctuates the English lyrics, and the two voices unite to hum the chorus. The song demonstrates Hedgehog’s ability to move away from a restricted rock song formula and sound into something more daring, and ultimately, more fulfulling.
To accompany this album, Hedgehog released an limited edition 9-song album called DEstroy meMOries, a sort of id to Honeyed And Killed’s ego. In an angsty mood, I would turn to Honeyed And Killed, but if you want to spend some time and delve deeper into Hedgehog’s wild side, pick up DEstroy meMOries and have your headphones at the ready.
More information about Hedgehog on their official site, and on their Douban page. Also you can download for free DEstroy meMOries, and buy Honeyed And Killed. you can also see this short documentary about their experience last year on New York, the piece was produced by Lan Xu.