Hot Snakes

Audit in Progress (Swami Records)

Nov 10, 2004 at 4:00 am
The Hot Snakes are reminiscent of a time when indie bands actually rocked. This San Diego four-piece does away with the atmospheric pretensions of the indie scene on its third full-length, Audit in Progress, coming away with an album that is experimental in its ambitions but just plain fun in its execution.

The two main driving forces of the Snakes are its guitarists, Rick Froberg (formerly of early-'90s screamo forebears Drive Like Jehu) and John Reis (of Rocket From the Crypt and a thousand other projects). Froberg's garage-rock block chords set the foundation for Reis' unique six-string style, a mix of Dick Dale surf twang and post-punk jaggedness. The rhythm section serves as the springboard for this guitar duel, and the result is some of the densest punk since the Clash.

An interesting style is nice, but without the songs it's merely interesting. The Hot Snakes have no problem writing a hook or structuring a song, though; the choruses of "Kreative Kontrol" and the hilariously named "Think About Carbs" prove that point with fist-pumping catchiness. The attention to detail in the songcraft is noticeable but not intrusive, with little touches here and there -- like the math-rock tempo at the opening of "Retrofit," the open-throated organ riff that sets the bedrock for the Deep Purple-esque "Lovebirds" and the Roy Orbison-style retro strum of "Plenty for All" -- showing the band's varied taste and diverse stylistic choices.

Any great album has a song that could be a band's manifesto, and on Audit that song is the penultimate track, "Hair and DNA." With garage-rock bluster and an ass-kicking stoner riff underlying Rick Froberg's end-of-the-world shout, the Snakes demonstrate that the underground remembers how to rock.