There may be more worthwhile pursuits than attempting to make a better punk album. But when done properly, there are few things quite as instantly satisfying, not to mention fun in the most primal and visceral way. Give a quick listen to Jay Reatard’s discography (and you actually can do it quickly), and you’ll soon come to understand what I mean. Pacific Northwestern outfit Hornet Leg has also made a strong case with their latest, Ribbon of Fear. Primarily the musical outlet for Chris Sutton, also of C.O.C.O. and Dub Narcotic Sound System, Hornet Leg has gone through a few incarnations from acoustic to noise. But with Ribbon of Fear, they’ve leapt into peppy, poppy, bluesy garage punk, and what results is an invigoratingly fuzzy and jangly set of tunes that are quite easy to like, no matter how sloppy.
The Hornet Leg lineup on Ribbon of Fear comprises Sutton, drummer Robert Comitz and bassist Bob Desaulniers, and their dynamic is one of hedonistic abandon. As they launch the album with its opening title track, scruffy guitars commingle with faint bleeps of keyboard, and Sutton’s scrappy pipes are backed by those of an equally scrappy female singer. “Wait” removes the fuzz for acoustic guitar, while “Ruined My Life” opts for a twangy jangle with atonal vocal harmonies that throw it slightly off kilter. When covering Larry & The Blue Notes’ “Night of the Phantom,” however, they’re at their peak, ratcheting up their energy for a truly vintage sounding garage highlight. There’s a sexy slither to the more atmospheric organ psych of “I’m Leaving You,” a scruffy hop in “Snake Oil,” a shout-along chant in stellar surf-rock standout “We’re So Ugly,” and some blunt carnal declarations in “Savage.”
Ribbon of Fear is essentially 30-plus minutes of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Mostly rock `n’ roll, of course, but as “Savage” displays, they’re certainly not shy about the sex part. Certainly, countless bands have made albums of garage punk that sound quite a bit like this, but if nothing else, Ribbon of Fear shows that Hornet Leg are just that much better at it.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.