Hot Guts is a talented young post-punk inspired project from Philadelphia that have existed under the radar for 5 short years in the East coast post-industrial community — that is, until Badmaster Records and Suicide Tax took notice in 2009 and released the project’s self-titled debut 7″. This release was enough to get founders Wes Russell, Shari Vari & friends some chatter in their local scene, but it wasn’t until Sean Ragon of Cult of Youth / Blind Prophet Records fame took notice that they received their biggest chance to make some large-scale noise with this debut full-length record, “Edges”. Prior to “Edges”, the band had two smaller scale releases with a split 7″ with Pop. 1280, again on Badmaster Records, and a cassette single on Linear B Tapes.
“Edges” is a defiantly moody effort that often borders on the experimental — a fact which shouldn’t come as any surprise from a band whom share a city with the likes of David E. Williams, Signals, Lonesummer and Mike Bruno & the Black Magic Family Band, all of which share a similar attitude towards knocking down genre-barriers. The album opens up in surprisingly dreary fashion with “Radium Girls”, a song with a track title that begs for a sort of psychedelic go-go atmosphere a la Type O Negative’s cover of Neil Young’s classic “Cinnamon Girl”. Instead, we enter into an atmospheric, gloomy, opium-induced opus whose short-lived lifespan disintegrates into a droning and percussively bombastic fervor. The bombast reaches nearly martial proportions with the mantra-like “Heater Beauty” where atmospheric guitar and keys offer up a sound not unlike the sea-side romanticism present on the recent Yawning Sons collaboration. “Unawares” brings to light the dark electronic side of the project with down-tempo rhythms, overly processed guitar and vocals that simply seem to describe a nihilistic vision of someone’s last moments.
“The Ballad of John Simon” is where things really get interesting and when the attitude on the record takes on a silhouette that reminds one of the filtered shadows that Cult of Youth also belong to, and it’s more than the simple relation that comes with Sean Ragon releasing this record. There’s a certain instability and uncertainty behind the emotional intent and mood on “Edges” that matches the album cover all too well — like a fire that burns through the various and vacant memories in a photograph or a letter. TBOJS is a track that showcases a heart-felt approach not unlike the sentimental poetry of Nick Cave and Ian Curtis. In many ways, this track by itself changes around the entire nature of “Edges”, transforming it from a very dark experiment into a strikingly human, honest effort, which makes it understandable why this track deserved to stand on its own in the previous 7″ single.
The B-side of “Edges” is more electronic, vocally expressive, and in many ways “retro”. The title track, “Edges”, possesses a strong new wave uptempo direction that is relatively unexpected given the rest of the album, while “Impostors” contains a vintage synth sound approach to the bridging melodies and some beautiful dual-gender vocals. The final track, “Small Brass Cage” is the most proper post-industrial track on the entire release, culminating everything that came before into one lengthy, liberating experience that, again, becomes mantra-like vocally and is pulsating to the point that it’s reminiscent of old-school industrial in spirit. Surprisingly for a debut full-length, there are few elements to find fault with. Hot Guts have created a mature effort that is both at times uncomfortably sincere and passionately youthful. Even through experimentation and unorthodox guitar distortions, the performance is still flawless and some tracks are so excruciatingly catchy that fragments of their melodies will be sure to weave in and out of your memory for weeks. Now, I can’t wait to see how they manage to top it with the eventual sophomore effort.
A1) Radium Girls
A2) Heater Beauty
A4) The Ballad of John Simon
B3) Small Brass Cage