Some bands start with a bang. Fourth of July, a sextet of three brothers and three friends from Lawrence, Kan., isn't one of those bands. Instead, for its debut On the Plains, Fourth of July wrote a mildly roots-graced rock album about a girl who moved to France with the heart of the lead singer—brother Brendan Hangauer—in her suitcase. They're trying to make long-distance work, especially since she plans to move back sooner or later. Not exactly an auspicious, unexpected introduction, huh?
If this sounds like a recipe for boring indie rock in 2007, you're almost right: At its best, Fourth of July plays tasteful, dynamic and precise indie rock with Midwestern sincerity and ample power pop jangle. Horns flare as hooks get cast, and choruses come galvanized by four singers sharing the same sentiment. But Hangauer is an uncommon devotee, especially for indie rock right now. He's earnest, honest and indiscrete, wearing his love like a dirty T-shirt that's covered in beer stains and sweat.
Throughout On the Plains, his emotions are more conversations about anecdotes than diary entries about letdowns, and he's completely vulnerable. On "She's In Love," for instance, we watch Hangauer as he realizes that, in France, this girl is in love with a picture of him, not him. After all, right now, he's drunk, picking up the phone to call her and apparently sort of annoying: "I didn't mean to wake you up/ Your dreams are more important than us," he sings in a trans-Atlantic plea before sneaking in, "You keep dreaming about me/ I hope you fall right back asleep." He fancies a confrontation with a neighborhood creep who left smut magazines on her front porch: "If he comes back, my love, I'll kill him if he does." When she's still in town, he wonders why he got so drunk last night and passed out at a stranger's house. He could've been with her. But when she's in France, he admits he's getting drunk just to forget she exists: "I'm going to drown my sorrows/ until they can't hold their breath." Sure, you've heard that before, probably even been there. But Hangauer—bless his plain ol' Kansas indie rock soul—wonderfully recapitulates the sentiment the next morning like it's all he's got left. And, until she moved back, it sounds like it was.
Fourth of July plays Local 506 Tuesday, Oct. 9, with Hale Dixon at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8.