With frontman Noel Heroux’s trademark unorthodox guitar tunings warped to the point of sounding like braying synths, Hooray for Earth’s 2011 debut LP True Loves was often cited as synth pop, to the songwriter’s eternal chagrin. He actually told me in a 2011 interview for Under the Radar, “Everyone thinks that all the instruments on the record are synths, but that’s funny to me because there are tons of pitch-shifted vocals and guitars that are all fucked up to the point that they don’t sound like what they really are.”
On the band’s sophomore LP, Racy, Heroux puts to bed early any notion that they are remotely a synth-pop outfit. The bruised, eminently catchy guitar line on opener “Hey” reflects what Hooray for Earth have sounded like live for years — grizzled, fuzzed-out, guitar pop.
Heroux jettisons the one-man solo studio tinkering in favor of the visceral sound of a band playing live in a room on Racy, largely handing off session duties to his touring band, keyboardist/vocalist Jessica Zambri, drummer Joe Ciamprini, and bassist Chris Principe. The finished product eschews much of the overwrought tinkering of earlier HFE recordings — in its place are rough-hewn, ragged guitar figures that scuff up the band’s sound without sacrificing their innate melodic instincts.
On “Somewhere Else,” Heroux sings, sounding oddly self-assured, “Suddenly, all the answers come, like a submarine floating up,” and the track bursts with confidence he seems to have just discovered. “Racy,” the album’s title track, and the oldest number here, predates True Loves, and as its rendered on the album, it’s magisterial, full of contrition and abject longing, as Heroux laments, “Now that I’ve said it/ I immediately regret it.” This push and pull between confidence and second-guessing, defines Hooray for Earth’s appeal. They recklessly veer from optimism to self-doubt throughout Racy, and in the process have crafted their most emotionally brazen, and best, album to date.