Hilken Mancini and Chris Colbourn : Hilken Mancini and Chris Colbourn

Jeff Terich

Despite what Rhino Records may have you believe, the ’90s never really went away. Sure, there are some aspects of it that we would like to forget, but whatever embarrassing aspects of the decade we experienced can be offset by the incredible abundance of great music that emerged. And as time goes on, the aging youth of America become more nostalgic for that period. “Alternative” rock has re-emerged on records by the likes of Sybris and Headlights, and bands like The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. are re-uniting and playing to sold out crowds. And just last year, I attended one night of Sebadoh’s acoustic tour (2/3 of Sebadoh, that is), and everyone in attendance had most likely seen them play when III came out. These same concert-goers were decked out in faded Dinosaur Jr. and Buffalo Tom t-shirts, revisiting the hangover of their college days. They probably even popped in the Fort Apache compilation on the way over. Had I known any of these folks, I would have liked to tell them about the new record by Hilken Mancini and Chris Colbourn, two Boston alt-rock veterans, formerly of Fuzzy and Buffalo Tom, respectively.

Given Mancini and Colbourn’s pedigrees, it should come as no surprise to most that their new record is upbeat, catchy, jangly pop music, the likes of which their bands produced ten years ago. Colbourn and Mancini trade off vocal duties, in addition to harmonizing, which makes the pairing a true collaboration. Neither seems to overpower the other, and each song flows harmoniously as part of a fun and infectious whole. Songs like “I Will Die” and “Hannah” are bittersweet but memorable jangle-pop tunes that any Rickenbacker junkie will take to easily. “In My Arms” is a rocking anthem that stands out among the mellower tunes that surround it, and could even fit in snugly alongside Lemonheads or Juliana Hatfield tracks on a college mixtape. Actually, most of these songs could, and that’s part of the appeal—each one, though not necessarily miles away from material either of these artists has created in their previous bands, is extremely single-worthy and a whole lot of fun.

Some of the best moments come in less conspicuous packages, however. “Wedding Cake” and “Party Town” both take on a more country-informed twang, the latter in particular a standout for its infectious chorus of “you’ve got a friend in this party town.” I know I’ll be singing that for the rest of the day, now. “Couple of Weeks,” as well, has a No Depression style country-rock sound that could have been cut from the latest Mendoza Line album. This song, as well as rocking opener “Saint Agnes Eve,” features guest guitar by none other than J. Mascis, just going to show that few ties have been cut despite each member’s respective band breaking up.

Though the tide has largely shifted to cheeky post-punk tribute acts, indie geeks should still hold a place in their hearts for the jangly pop they were weaned on in the ’90s. And few albums have displayed how well that sound applies to the ’00s like Hilken Mancini and Chris Colbourn’s debut has. It may not be exactly the same, but there’s just enough overdrive and pep to sound more than a little familiar.

Similar Albums:
Evan Dando – Baby I’m Bored
Ben Lee – Awake is the New Sleep
Juliana Hatfield Three – Become What You Are

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