The air conditioning is out at my destitute suburban townhome. Every ceiling fan is on. The jazz tobacco’s nearly gone. The sound of summer’s construction encroaches upon the neighborhood. Oftentimes, I find myself listening to music that corresponds to both my mood and environment, and I have a record for this sort of languid, humid day. Shuffling through a crate of LPs, I recognize the distorted, pixelated palm tree that adorns the cover of The Hospitals’ Hairdryer Peace, perfectly foreshadowing the sounds to be heard. Imagery that evokes the spirit of being burnt-out and sun-baked has been en vogue over the past several years, but The Hospitals, based in San Francisco, were one of the few bands to articulate the dreary reality of life on the tropical living room sofa.
Dropping the needle, listeners are soon greeted by Adam Whitestone’s strained vocals. “I feel queer”, he shouts, amongst blown-out guitars that erupt into the sort of psychedelia-damaged noise splatter that may one liken to Ramleh circa Hole In The Heart, but more ostensibly acid-fried. Following the opening tracks bout of noise is quite possibly the Hospitals’ catchiest jam, “Getting Out Of Bed”, an affirmation of the bands ability to make the distance between pop and noise almost seamless. “Getting Out Of Bed” isn’t Hairdryer Peace’s only instance of something that resembles a song; “This Walls” starts on a post-punk foot before fading into an assemblage of found sounds and grainy feedback. Besides the two aforementioned tracks, the Hospitals opt for episodic song structures, which pits the tape recorder against their inhuman wall of noise. Tape smear and manipulated feedback as song-craft becomes integral to Hairdryer Peace, yielding their most distinctive recordings as a band without resting upon their amps. The miasmic tumult of “Animals Act Natural”, for example, marks the band at their noisiest and their most cathartic; Whitestone’s drums are frantic and the guitars are ham-fistedly pummeled, syncopating to the hi-end skree weaving in and out of the mix before ultimately imploding. “Rules For Being Alive”, the most psychedelic cut off the album, is nearly folky at the track’s onset before the Hospitals employ layers of noise, bringing the song to its paranoid conclusion. The last tracks on the album finish the album on a more abstract note, often opting for ominious guitar textures that rumble and scream throughout the mix. “Dream Damage” features a dilapidated chord structure that repeats itself, never straying from its staggering point of origin.
Hairdryer Peace found The Hospitals in the sorts of territory occupied by noise rock deconstructionists such as Royal Trux, Jim Shepard’s Vertical Slit, and The Dead C. Not unlike the seminal rock terrorists of the past, The Hospitals managed to find a way to bridge absolute discordance and the lowest common denominators of rock songwriting, creating the sort of manic din of Twin Infinitives while managing to remain more coherent and succinct (which doesn’t happen quite often when bands attempt to flip the rock hierarchy of reason/communication over noise/ritual). Principally, the band is able to articulate their ethos perfectly well (the lack of a given fuck is palpable) while managing to proffer thematic tidiness.
Hairdryer Peace’s lyrical content reflects the same sense of disorientation created by the music, a mix of hazy comprehension and burnt-out bluntness. “BPPV” for example, is a delirious performance of several simple lines, “Where are you now?/ you’re upside down/your face looks smeared…/I feel dizzy/I feel stoked”. The band also shows an interest in the dichotomy between impulse and silence (“You’re afraid to do what you’re required to do”, “Animals act natural! It’s all been so hard for me”, “Kids, get out of bed!”), yet the band bends toward the discordance associated with noise music’s release of internal tensions. In this way, Hairdryer Peace functions as a primal scream, rendering the mundane (whether social or chemical) as a catalyst to complete disenchantment. Beneath the aforementioned disillusion, however, is a well-wrought noise that announces its presence as something urgent, important. Stockpiling and repetition continue to dominate the consumption of music, but Hairdryer Peace seems to want to point in the other direction. If, as Jacques Attali proposes, music is becoming more and more about silence (the exclusion of musical codes that don’t conform to the contemporary musical standard of hi-fidelity, intelligibility and perfection), an album as explicitly damaged as Hairdryer Peace explores the aesthetic of composition-contra-automation, the juxtaposition of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” against the terrifying backdrop of unorganized sound and tape shrapnel. The Hospitals might’ve created the manifestation of the arid, listless, monotonous afternoon that cannot help but to incessantly recur.
Download Full Album : The Hospitals – Hairdryer Peace (Right click/Save as)
Hairdryer Peace was self-released on vynil in 2008 and is now out of print. A cd version was later released by Meds (imprint of excellent Portland record shop Exiled). Some indie stores still have a few copies of this cd version (here or there). Other albums can be bought directly from Load and In the red Records.