There's some crazy shit that happens on Hector Faceplant's new record, “Songs You'll Never Hear.” For the most part, the band plays perky, nervy, 1980s-era Cali punk rock (think X, Dead Kennedys or Urinals). And as much as I hate to pin them as derivative, there's no escaping the fact that HF is cut from the aforementioned cloth. But like jackalopes, Hector Faceplant's songs are both cute and demented. The song “California 68” begins with the sound of seagull chirps and a rotary phone being dialed. From there an ominous bass line and an off-kilter drum pattern set the background for a phone-filtered vocal where the singer, Sulac, outlines a list of creatures (butterflies, turtles and zebras) that he wishes would crawl over him. The scene is St. Francis psychedelia painted, or rather played, by a trio of punk acolytes. As the song progresses, the sounds of seagulls and running water become prominent in the mix, offering a weird, seaside counterpoint to the band's insistent, two-chord rumble. Overall, the song is as hypnotically catchy as it is sonically schizophrenic, strange as it is fun: an audio jackalope if I ever heard one.
Before you start thinking “Songs You'll Never Hear” is all sound design and no substance, check out “Mikey & Fluke” or “I Was Lying.” Both tracks present Hector Faceplant's straight-up bass, guitar, and drums. No audio gimmicks here, just the sound of a band playing their instruments. On each of these cuts, singer Liz Carroll takes center stage. Carroll owns a refreshingly honest voice and her straight-forward approach as a vocalist gives these songs an undeniable warmth.
In the end, the surprise about “Songs You'll Never Hear” is the songs. Emerging from in between recycled answering machine messages, weird synthesizer squeals and other short blasts of flea market musique concrete, come several catchy punk ditties. “Pomos Criscos” and “Very Wrong Dialect” show the HF's ability to rock, but it's the oh-too-short “Thermometer” that steals the show for me. A bummed-out, night-on-the-town story with hints of a Gary Numan keyboard hook, the song peters out after the second verse. In place of more of this great song comes a lot of backwards-sounding stuff that finishes off the track. Don't get me wrong. I like backwards-sounding stuff as much as the next guy, but perhaps next time around HF should consider burying all the studio tricks in the mix, rather than the music.