Men Without Hats

Newport, Ky., Punk group Hats Off has returned with its third effort, Accumulation, which gets the "CD release party" treatment this Friday at Top Cat's. The Wankers, F.R.A., Downhill Luke and 16 Pi

Newport, Ky., Punk group Hats Off has returned with its third effort, Accumulation, which gets the "CD release party" treatment this Friday at Top Cat's. The Wankers, F.R.A., Downhill Luke and 16 Piece Bucket are also on the bill.

The band has bulked up their sound a bit with Accumulation. The former trio is now a quartet and this is their first CD featuring new guitarist Matt McClure. The addition adds even more sparks to their tornadic sound, which eschews the shiny, happy so-called "Punk" of today in favor of the reckless, high-speed adrenaline of '80s Punk Rock. Hats Off would have been perfect regulars at the old Jockey Club in Newport. "Don't Tell Me What I Don't Know" kicks off the album and introduces McClure in fine style, with blazing lead lines erupting and an almost Metal roar that'll singe your ear-hair. Elsewhere, gang vocals add the requisite "anthem" quality ("Something Better," "Searching For Identity"), and the band shows a newfound grasp of dynamics, shifting gears within several songs to showcase a more adventurous songwriting side. Tracks like "Mr. Fuckface" mix in a heavier Rock influence, complete with neck-straining screamage.

If the title "Mr. Fuckface" isn't a big enough hint, Hats Off have some fun lyrically, mixing adolescent nihilism and sincere introspection.

For example, a fairly serious look at alcoholism ("The Bottle") is followed by "One Special Night," about a gentleman caller who has worked up the courage to ask his gal pal for anal sex ("Would you still respect me if I fucked you in the ass?/I'll slide it in slow and if you like it I'll go fast"). Low-brow humor haters should probably stay away from that one.

While the band's willingness to expand from the traditional vintage Punk blueprint is admirable, the earnest "Holding On" is the album's biggest misstep. It's a billowing ballad featuring some solid playing, but it sounds like a 3 Doors Down cover, making it an odd inclusion amidst all of the Punk pyrotechnics. Thankfully, the band redeems itself on the last track, a blistering, triple-time take on The Beatles' "Eight Days a Week."

While a strong effort overall, Hats Off sound like they are still trying to find themselves musically on Accumulation, attempting new things to further their sound, like all great musicians. Their continued maturation should make for even better future releases. (hatsoffrock.com)

More Local Notes
· Creative, clever Pop trio A.M. Elevator is a Cincinnati band. With two members (guitarist/singer T-Sly and drummer Brian Williamson) living in the Queen City and one (singer/bassist Walt Macatee) in Lexington, the band decided Cincy wins, 2-1! The group celebrates their impressive, self-titled debut release Friday with a show at Stanley's Pub. Singer/songwriter Jack Redell opens. (myspace.com/amelevator)

· Coming off a fan-winning set at the Desdemona Festival, The Spectacular Fantastic comes back indoors for a show Saturday at The Comet. The Indie Pop greats are joined by Hierophant and the show also features the debut appearance of Science Olympics, featuring several members of the late, great Swissfarlo.

· Kelly Thomas, musician and organizer of the Rivertown Music Club showcase, has announced the winners of this year's Red MacCormack Recording Grants. 500 Miles to Memphis, The Sundresses and The Catalog Cowboys will each be awarded $500 for studio fees. Thomas also said that the Rivertown showcases will now happen four times a year instead of monthly. But the RTMC "Final Friday" happy hour shows at the Courtyard Cafe, featuring "unplugged" sets, will continue as a monthly event. This Friday at 5 p.m., the latest installment features Thomas, Sharon Udoh, Justin Lynch, Tupelo Honey and Nashville's Stephen Simmons.

· Fans of local Hard Rock and Metal will want to be at Annie's Saturday for the all-day "Freedom Fest 2006" concert. Starting at 1 p.m., the show presents a multitude of area bands, with Jani "Cherry Pie Guy" Lane from Warrant headlining. The concert includes performances from A Nervous Wreck, Billy Carri, Triad, Planet Scream, Neutral Shock, Detached, In Rage, Elanore and many others. Tickets are available through ticketmaster.com.

· Northside's Fourth of July parade rolls down Hamilton Ave. Tuesday at noon, but the party kicks off Monday in Hoffner Park with the "Rock 'N Roll Carnival," featuring several local musical acts and other performers. Jake Speed and the Freddies kick off Monday's festivities at 7:30 p.m., followed by Wussy, The Kentucky Struts, Turnbull ACs, The Virgins and others. After the parade Tuesday, aritsts like The Junkers, Michael McIntire and the Marmalade Brigade, The Tigerlilies, Maurice Mattei and Bakou and the Image Afro-Beat Band perform.



CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com

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