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Method to the Madness

by Yusuf Laher / 16.09.2009

There was a lot of pressure on track one, “Scene Police” – it’s the first new Hog Hoggidy Hog song for five years. And predictably, Hogs deliver. The late ‘90s/early 2000s were a good time for punk rock and pop punk worldwide. Locally, bands like Leek and the Bouncing Uptones, Fuzigish, Pet Flyz, Ignorance Is Typical, New World Inside, pre–ATFN All This For Nothing and Hog Hoggidy Hog were the kings. And from that royal list, Cape Town’s pork–rocking Hogs are the last men standing. That’s got to count for something, right?

Today, after one of the shittiest Mondays of the year, Method to the Madness, Hogs’ fourth full length release, sounds even better than it did last week. On my way back from the post office, I was literally punching the air to songs like “Scene Police,” “Begging For Change,” “Tourope” and “Sherry Ann,” the songs playing so loud I could hear the bass distorting and feel my chest caving in.

As usual, the influence of San Francisco’s NOFX is undeniable. The “Who’s to Blame?” riff sounds like NOFX’s “Seeing Double at the Triple Rock” and on “Can Of Worms,” George Bacon sings, “Leave It Alone! Leave It Alone!” (to be specific). But more than that, it’s the alcohol-soaked, never-say-die, independent punk rock ethos they both adhere to. I bet Fat Mike and George Bacon would make famous drinking buddies.

Music-wise, Hogs also mix the big brass sounds of bands like Reel Big Fish, Mad Caddies, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and fellow Capetonians, 7th Son, of course, adding their own stamp, local flavour and Mango Groove influence along the way. Then there’s George Bacon’s voice: one of a kind. It’s like hearing an old friend you were beginning to think would never call again. And Ross da Bone’s backups sound like he must have needed a nut transplant.

Ross da Bone and Lee Lips are one of the best partnerships in punk brass – brass knuckle masters – and even though the songs have taken a more punk rock, less ska approach than you might expect, the brass lines are cooking, punctuating the 14 songs like master wordsmiths. Lee Lips’ jazz chops/Miles Davis influence adds an air of classicism to lines like “I’ve drunk the wine of every kind of grape,” and George Bacon’s nasal, pants-around-his-ankles disposition.

Overall, Method to the Madness is an album crammed with hero moments that suggest the live version’s going to be nothing short of epic. Like the way the “Begging For Change” intro kicks into one of the most grooving bassline/hi-hat verses ever penned; the way “Sherry Ann” sustains just before the chorus kicks you in the teeth; Amos Keeto’s surprising Strung Out turn on “Scene Police”; the brass solo at the end of “Quite Contrary”; George Bacon’s King Prawn vocals on “Out of Control”; Lee Lips’ classic Springbok Nude Girls moment on “Carry On”… the list goes on. At first, the choruses did seem a little done to death, looping lines until I was singing them in my sleep (especially on “Jimmy Potz”). But in the end, that just made my dreams more interesting. The tight, vocally in-tune, up-tempo rerecording of “John and Phillippp’s Song” is a nice bonus – smart move.

Hog Hoggidy Hog are South African punk rock royalty. If there were any justice, they’d have been picked up by Fat Wreck, as South Africa’s international ska-punk representatives, and be touring places like Japan, Europe and Australia, with the likes of Mad Caddies, NOFX and Frenzal Rhomb. You may take them for granted down in Cape Town, but up here in Durban, Hogs shows happen about as often as General Elections and World Cups. I can count the number of times I’ve seen them live on one hand (I’ve got six fingers). Luckily, as far as World Cups, General Elections and Hogs tours go, now is the time.

Pic courtesy and © Tim Henny

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