Garage rock keeps getting older, but the bands stay the same age. The latest bunch of meticulously tousled youngsters to create good old-fashioned revivalist racket is Harlem, whose second album, Hippies, sounds like it was made by a gaggle of fresh-faced lads who quickly bashed out their latest batch of songs in one take. In other words, it’s pretty much what’s expected—and demanded—from a band like this. At its best, Harlem wrestles fresh pleasures from old formulas, bopping along on slashing guitars and a hip-shaking “We Got The Beat” bassline on “Poolside,” and rubbing the juvenile-delinquent vocals of Michael Coomers and Curtis O’Mara into grade-school harmonies on “Gay Human Bones.”
Hippies is sloppy and likeable, but the album’s tuneful, two-minute blasts of three-chord pop aren’t in the least bit dangerous. (Think The Black Lips without the mouths full of piss.) Essentially “just” a meat-and-potatoes guitar-bass-drums trio, Harlem has an unpretentious simplicity that’s both its greatest strength and its most inhibiting limitation. The songs hit with refreshing directness and even sweetness—the lovey-dovey ballad “Cloud Pleaser” suggests that Hippies might not be an ironic album title—but the same parts get recycled on every track, which makes the record feel like one long jangle occasionally interrupted by brief moments of silence. But at least it’s a joyous, swaggering jangle, and you can dance to it, too.