The Real Hooks - Damn You (2017)

Written by Robert Elgin, posted by blog admin

Artwork by Odandiee

The Real Hooks are bringing qualities back to mainstream pop rock that we haven’t heard for sometime – namely, playfully intelligent humor, an effortless penchant for melody, and an innate sense of chemistry transcending things beyond mere rehearsals. The latter point is no accident – the band is a family affair with father Nicky Hooks playing with his children of varying ages. They aren’t the first act of their ilk, definitely, but they never play their connections as some sort of gimmick to help get over music that fails to measure up. Instead, it informs what they do on a fundamental level and they fortunately possess a natural chemistry as the result of those aforementioned connections. They have experienced considerable success since their 2013 debut with audiences and press alike and the coverage will only expand with releases of a high quality like their latest single. “Damn You” shows the results of recent efforts to expand the band’s songwriting circle in an attempt to make further breakthroughs. Unlike some bands and artists, working with other writers doesn’t signal their own ceding of creative space – instead, ‘Damn You” sparkles with more nuance and polish than any previous effort and it’s clear the influence of outside creative partners is merely enhancing what the band already has at their disposal.  

The ebullient musical character of the song is obvious from the start. It’s carried aloft by crisp drumming and airy guitar passages nonetheless possessing a sharp snap as well. The Real Hooks deliver consistently relaxed performances and this is no exception, but “Damn You” likewise doesn’t betray a single hint of musical discord. It maintains an impressively live feel for a studio recording and this fact, as well, makes it apparent the song is built, in part, with an ear towards reproducing it for live audiences. The vocal harmonies scattered throughout the number make the performance all the more memorable. They handle these devices with a deft touch, never laying on the array of voices in a heavy handed way – it sweetens the overall demeanor of the work without ever rendering it too soft.

The Real Hooks can certainly lay claim to being a genuine rock and roll band. This isn’t rock in dour, chest thumping mode, but the drumming and rambunctious edge on the guitar work clearly serve in a longstanding tradition while retaining a real individuality. The lyrics are another definite highlight. The Real Hooks have an obvious talent for incorporating humor into their music, the sly winking variety that embraces subtlety, but delivery is equally key to bringing it off. There’s a carefree, offhanded smirk in this performance that’s never mean spirited. It makes for one of many fine parts in an overall entertaining package. The Real Hooks are laying the groundwork for a long career with each new song and “Damn You” will likely prove to be an important cornerstone for their success.

Grade: A