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Hella 

Church Gone Wild/Chirpin' Hard

Wednesday, Apr 27 2005
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This Sacramento duo has cut so many albums of tireless, all-rubbin'-no-climax noise-rock that it doesn't take a big leap to make it sound epic in the '70s sense: In this case, a few overdubs and a double-album span make this come off like Hella's Physical Graffiti. The gimmick here is that founding members Spencer Seim and Zach Hill each dominate a disc, respectively, so let's get to the real question: Which one's better? On his album, Chirpin' Hard, Seim exploits Hella's Nintendo fetish with bright, tight tunes played on cheap, tinny keyboards. "Gold Mine, Gold Yours" and the title track ape classic 2-D scroller soundtracks -- though the former's drive is more rewarding than the latter's yammering, which will instantly give you that headache your mom always talked about. Composition and complicated arrangements take precedence over Seim's customary shredding, and cuts like "Dad for Song" aren't speed-freakouts so much as the linear descendants of the Ventures' "Telstar." But for all its hooks, Chirpin' Hard is just dessert after the awesome sludge-rock of Church Gone Wild, which sounds like Hill threw a circus band into a river of lava, only to make us fish it out. Tooth-gnashing riffs, the far-off moans of a religious awakening, watery echoes of choirs, and rad xylophones (!) parade over Hill's shaman drums. The only downside is that Hill blows an entire hour stuck in the same gear; he probably could have cut it shorter. There's no "Kashmir" here, though moments come close, and at heart, this is the same old Hella, masters of unceasing, grinding, but nuanced music. I recommend headphones and earplugs.

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Chris Dahlen

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