The self-titled debut from Durham's Hammer No More the Fingers sounds almost passé. But after a half-decade of post-punk hair bands and precious indie pop, it's refreshing to hear an album get its hooks in without disco hi-hats or another whimsical glockenspiel line. Do we need a sequel to Editors, or another B-list Elephant 6 aper? To Hammer's credit, there aren't many baby bells or backbeats here. This is a smart, exuberant record that ignores the current crop of indie heavyweights—Arcade Fire's televangelism, the Shins' life-saving abilities, Interpol's sourpuss sass, Bloc Party's, um, blandness—in favor of the sort of anthemic indie rock that put its beloved Triangle on the map more than a decade ago. All together now: Superchunk!
Sloppy Archers octave chords and a Pixian sense of dynamics introduce the album on "O.R.G.Y.," all sub-Malkmus verses and choruses searching for McCaughan sweetness. The reference points don't shift much throughout: "Mushrooms" is an unapologetic love letter to Pavement, while "Vodka Grasshopper" drops more than a bit of Polvo busyness. "Black Harmony" gooses the jangle-n-bounce of the '90s convincingly.
None of this is any more than a reverent glance, and the similarities get their pass thanks to the confident songwriting. Jeff Stickley, E. Duncan Webster and Joe Hall have an undeniable chemistry and a noticeable respect for each other's contributions. Stickley's drums are always tasteful, never throttled, and Hall's guitars never overpower, often preferring the sweet spots of cleanliness. And the triple vocals (but never triple harmonies) work. Good to know that solid stuff like this from Durhamites this young still exists. And works.
Hammer No More the Fingers releases its debut with an extravaganza at Duke Coffeehouse with I Was Totally Destroying It, Red Collar, The Future Kings of Nowhere and Dead to Society on Saturday, Nov. 10. Tickets are $5 for a 9 p.m. start.