[Album Review] Hugo Stranger and The Rattlers Debut Album “Against The Tide”

Brisbane 4 piece Hugo Stranger & The Rattlers released their debut album “Against The Tide” across all popular streaming platforms on February 17th 2021 with an official launch to follow on March 13th 2021 at The Bearded Lady in West End, Brisbane.

Hugo Stranger & The Rattlers four members are: Tom Harrison (Vocals/Guitar), Thomas Atkin (Lead Guitar), Ben Lane (Bass) and Kyle Zenchyson (Drums). Together they herald original sounds described by themselves as 60’s Surfer Pop, Blues and Spaghetti Western.

Frontman, Tom Harrison conveys the album “Against The Tide” is an ‘Ode To The Perfect Car Mixtape’“When I started working on the album, I was channeling back to mixtapes when I first got a car. It would always start with something brash and fun to get you moving, then ebb and flow. By the end you kind of want to go full Thelma and Louise and soar off the cliff with guns blazing. We have multiple influences and I wanted them to come through in this album.”

If you like The Atlantics ‘Bombora’ you’ll fall in love with the similar stylings from Hugo Stranger & The Rattlers on the introductory track ‘Sunset Wrays’. Carrying us right into the heart of surfer vibe is a classic twang instrumental with Atkin’s guitar doing all the singing. Slightly more subdued than the gusto of Bombora it invokes the ending of a big day cruising the waves on a longboard.

Track 2, ‘Strange Days’ has managed to cement itself as my favourite on the whole album. The blues swagger created instrumentally within this track is dark and dirty and all encompassing. It’s smoky atmospheric underground nightclub presence is developed through the combination of some sweet licks and gravely vocals.

‘By Your Side’, is a soft little number with a nice gentle hook and is less rebellious than the aforementioned tracks. It’s almost clean and innocent by comparison until you actually listen to the lyrics and find the song is really about a strained relationship. It’s an intriguing mix where the tempo at times almost seems as though the music is going to run ahead of the vocals and somehow that makes it a great listen!! Released as a single in 2019 it was voted into the top 20 on 4ZZZ’s Hot 100 for 2020.

Coming in at 4mins and 6 seconds in length is another one of the pre-release singles – ‘Tonight’. Infectious little “Do Wop” feels coming your way!! Poor boy he’s pouring his heart out or wait am I confused about that!! Of all the tracks on Against The Tide this one is hard to comment on. There are so many places to explore but for sure you’re going to get your soppy love fix here at track 4.

‘Beach Coma’ amps up the surf theme and creates a beach party fit for hipsters of the 60’s. More pronounced bass lines with a lively tempo. There’s a moment not to far in from the beginning of this track where I felt the presence of Plastik Bertrand that wonderful little oddity of the 70’s…Oh I’m deadly serious and when you get there to the chorus you’ll know exactly what I mean. ‘Beach Coma’ is a super charged little packet of fun!

“She’s a Maaad, Maad Woman!” Oops sorry – distracted much. ‘Mad Woman’ is obviously born from the bands interests in Quentin Tarantino’s soundtracks. You’d feel right at home in a scene from Pulp Fiction with this one. ‘Chic swagger’ and ‘sweet gangsta’ grooves hooking you into the fray. Not quite naughty but not quite innocent either. Akin to Santana’s Black Magic Woman with smoothness but also seems to borrow a little of Roy Orbisons Pretty Woman.

Vasoline Kisses’ tones down this trip with a relaxed almost sleepy undertones of the classic 60’s inspired love song. It’s going to be playing on the Juke Box as you put your head on your beau’s shoulder and you sway slowly together on the checkered dance floor. It’s a direct transportation to that age old ‘American Diner’ scene and I was waiting for Frankie Vali to drop in some harmonies with Harrison.

Bringing a little more grunge and dirt to the album is ‘Dark Places’. It could be a rock anthem but stays purposefully and cleverly in the understated lane. Steely Dan comes to mind when I listen to this track because on reflection it’s really a soft sophisticated rock experience.

Stepping back into the party zone and with a great rawness in his vocal Harrison hammers ‘Hold On’. A straight up blues inspired rock track made of the stuff you wanna see live. Full of driving beats and rhythms its impossible to stay still. Also one of the three tracks released as a single before the album – it’s a must for any playlist or mixtape!

So Long Ago’ introduces the bands influences in ‘Spaghetti Western’ Style. Musically it evokes visions of a solo cowboy riding into town. Lyrically and in reality it’s a reflection on a love lost So Long Ago. It’s subtle and subdued and just a chance to wind down the pace but doesn’t lose any power in delivery in doing so.

Closing out the album is ‘Into The West’. It’s another instrumental like the introductory track yet of a truly Flamenco nature as the guitarist produces a livelier more gritty sound and takes the ‘Spaghetti Western’ level to 11. With this track our journey ends and we ride triumphantly together into the sunset “Against The Tide“.

There are 11 tracks on “Against The Tide” and in this review I purposely haven’t spoken too much about the instrumentals involved in each one so that you might allow them to carry you along your own journey. Make no mistake though, these guys are experienced storytellers and there’s no doubt where they want you to be and when they want it. Each member shines on their respective instruments and Harrisons vocals tie in perfectly.

I can only encourage you to grab your own copy or get along to the launch and enjoy it live! This album was simply a ‘HOOT’ and ‘Very Classy’ right from the onset. The band wears there influences like stitched on badges of honour.

“Against The Tide” by Hugo Stranger & The Rattlers has provided me with one of a few experiences that has been authentic in it’s representation, true to the bands inspirations and transferred seamlessly into my psyche. If you don’t find a groove to fit into I’m thinking you might need to check yourself!! Harrison was right – this album is a ‘Perfect Car Mixtape’!

ON TOUR

‘Against The Tide’ Album Launch
March 13, 2021
The Bearded Lady
West End, Brisbane
Buy Your Tickets Here

Olmeca Valley
March 20, 2021
The Sideshow
West End, Brisbane
Buy Your Tickets Here

Saturdays @ Lefty’s
March 27, 2021
Leftys Music Hall
Caxton Street, Brisbane
Free Event

Find Hugo Stranger & The Rattlers

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