No/Hugs – Your Satisfaction Is Fake

Image credit to Pascal A. Garoute

‘Your Satisfaction is Fake’ is the most recent single from Boston-based rock band No/Hugs.  Describing themselves on their Facebook page as ‘a mix of polished alternative rock and pop/punk’, their sound is fast, loud, and brings an energy that hard rock fans will devour.  The single reminds me more than anything of the classic rock sound of yesteryear; the song would not have felt out of place as a B-side on the Guns ‘N’ Roses 1987 debut Appetite For Destruction.  The band does put a modern twist on this classic rock sound.  The pop-punk influences are clear, particularly in the verses, when the strong female vocals give an undeniable early Paramore vibe, even though Paramore themselves haven’t released anything like this in a while.

I loved the song.  The vocalist was the star of the show.  An outstanding performance on this recording highlights the singer’s malleability with a wide variety of vocal timbre ranging from the comfortable head voice at the start of the song, to the hell-raising yell immediately following, to the powerful hard rock grit exemplified throughout the track.  A dynamic variation on the part of the instrumentalists was exciting to listen to, switching from an all-out power chord roar to a snare-driven downbeat pulse; from a halftime groove to a bass and drums feature, and everything in between.  The song definitely never got boring, and that kind of variety gives a song a three-dimensional sound to really ‘pop’ out of the speakers.

I was not entirely happy with the mix.  I felt it was weak, sapping a little bit of energy from the song at all its key moments.  My biggest complaint here is the drumset.  Firstly, regarding volume, I simply don’t think it was loud enough.  Drowned out by the powerful guitars and vocals, it just didn’t drive the song as it could have with a touch more volume.

Regarding engineering, the snare needed to be bigger, and it needed more high end to push it through the mix and take control of the song.  The tuning of the drum left something to be desired, but it wasn’t St. Anger level ‘trash can snare drum’ (this is a Metallica reference if you’re confused about what I just said).

The kick drum was a bit flat; in layman’s terms, it had great ‘slap’ but no ‘BOOM’.  The articulation of the drum was outstanding, but without extensive double bass work, articulation isn’t especially necessary, and there wasn’t enough low end body to give the bass guitar any power.  I also thought the bass was a bit too soft, and the groove always sounded a touch lopsided.  The guitars sounded good, though they could’ve done with a nice mid-scoop, and vocals all sounded phenomenal; both guitars and vocals were just over-balanced, so the rhythm section couldn’t give them the support they needed.

As far as the song itself is concerned, I thought it was very well written.  Lyrics were solid, and the melodies were all a perfect blend of singable and gritty, helping to keep the listener engaged.  Structurally, I think starting the song with a breakdown chorus was a good move, and the transition into the verse was a great ramp up in energy.  I think the breakdown after the first chorus was a little out of place.  At first, I thought it was just a transition, but then the drums went into a groove, and it was a full-on breakdown, somewhat randomly placed after the first full chorus.

The second verse started softly before launching into a driving bass and drums statement, which was all solid conceptually, it just didn’t transition very well between dynamics and sounded too abrupt.  The guitars came in big in the back half of the verse, and the background vocals echoing the main vocals all made for a big boost of energy, so that when the halftime pre-chorus hit, I was sure it was going to build into a big arrival at the second chorus. There was no big arrival.

My bottom line is that the song is great, and each member of this band put down a great recording here.  The dynamic creativity exhibited in this track was really impressive and is something I think this band should continue to capitalise on in the future.  Despite this, the mixing issues and arrangement issues I mentioned are tough to get around, putting an overall damper on the energy and potential for this single.  I do hope to hear more new music from No/Hugs; hopefully, a full-length or a second EP to flesh out their catalogue and demonstrate some maturation in their sound.

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