Written By: Joe Brown
Post-modern, Delta blues revivalists, Hoboken Division, are a French, garage rock duo formed in 2011 with the release of their self-titled debut EP put out in late spring 2012. This emerging two-piece is bursting onto the psych and garage rock scenes with some dirty, grungy blues which seems to channel The Blues Explosion at their peak.
The album’s opener, “Sugardaddy,” (recently realized in the music video medium) grabs your attention with defiant authority as a muddy, yet driving, bass riff paired with heavy fuzz grips a hold of your attention from the get-go. “Sugardaddy” has an interesting T-Rex vibe about it as Hoboken Division‘s sound is definitely blues, but with a bit more of a swagger and a stomp-rock beat. Marie Rieffly’s snarling voice compliments the muddy backdrop with such clarity and assertion, which really carries the melody of the jam, recalling the presence of a more restrained Karen O or Alison Mosshart.
“Out of Business” takes us on a trip right along the Mississippi Delta as the distortion is kicked up a notch and HB’s sound is fleshed out by warbly harmonicas and guitar slides, evoking nothing short of a passionate romp. The vocals pace through the track as if Hoboken Division were stalking its prey in the tall grass. Nothing sounds too complicated or forced, as the duo aren’t afraid to strip it all back several times, just before pouncing with a more powerful ending. The underground, garage rock sound gives the EP an attitude of arrogance, yet well deserved by the pair as every song is well-written and each offers an array of composition elements without breaking a stride in their propulsive, compelling energy. The sheer power that this simple two-piece brings is remarkable, especially in a live context, with their well-rounded and thick sound seemingly perfected in their relatively short time together.
Things take on a more sensual turn with “Radar On” with the guitar slinking along as the vocals melt in your ears. The interplay between both parts is understated, yet fits so perfectly as they intertwine with the greatest of ease to compliment one another. The shimmer of Mathieu Cazanave’s guitar intensifies with the fuzz that infuses the blues with a dirty grunge aesthetic. He breaks off into an impassioned solo for a moment, exhibiting both the light and darkness of the “Radar On” with the inclusion of spiky phrases or the perfectly timed wail of pitch-bending. There’s nothing too fancy going on, and there is no need for such stylings, as anything too busy would ruin the raw, noir feel of the track that rises up to croon yet again in it’s smooth and eased flow.
“Happier Than You” begins with a slow saunter as the snare cuts through with a deliberate pace that pounds along with the twang of the guitar which empowers the accompanying melodies. The closing moody feel creeps along as undertones of bleak resentment keep the song grounded. Gradually, Hoboken Division‘s sound becomes warped as if their final perspective wasn’t quite in line with their first impressions.
This live performance of ”Shoot That Chicken“ shows the stomping showcase this pair can provide while only being a duo; in this instance, lively and brash guitarwork underpins some quite Janis Joplin-esque vocals. You may notice that with all of Hoboken Division‘s songs, they never drag and seem like short bursts of energy.
A more gentle, subdued side of Hoboken Division comes out in “The Blue Devils” as the pace is tamed down and bravado is washed away as a softer, more vulnerable side is revealed, showcasing a depth that is a clear extension of what you hear on their debut EP. This ballad’s gentle lullaby manages to retain a slight, familiar tension with it’s bluesy inflections.