In The Valley Below
One of the first lessons they teach you in film school is that you sometimes have to “kill your darlings”. It’s a term that means no matter how much you love a scene you shot; if it doesn’t fit in the film, it ends up on the cutting room floor. In 2009, The Mother Hips rescued a short stack of 2-inch analog tapes from a Los Angeles basement and started picking through hours of material, most of it recorded around the era that produced 1995’s Part Timer Goes Full and ‘96’s Shootout. They were thrilled with what they heard. In fact the band was so prolific during this period that literally dozens of top-notch songs were shelved and never saw the light of day as the group continued to spit out new material with machine gun rapidity. Now the band has compiled the cream of this lost crop into this eleven-song treasure trove titled Chronicle Man.
The Mother Hips, the center of which is the duo of Tim Bluhm (vocals/guitar) and Greg Loiacono (guitar/vocals), have spent over two decades writing, recording and performing songs, and die-hard fans who still talk about their “first Hips show,” have hung on every word and have enabled The Mother Hips to become a bona fide cottage industry. The band was even able to lay claim to a rock subgenre, “California Soul” (aptly arrived upon) so solidified that brands like Sierra Nevada Brewery crafted a beer “Hips Helles” based on the bands’ sound, not to mention, spearhead a longstanding music and arts festival, The Hipnic, (now in its sixth year) slated for May 9-11 in Big Sur.
But most of all, what comes through loud and clear is that The Hips have already left us with an incredible legacy of music, from their stunning 1993 debut Back To The Grotto to 2013’s Behind Beyond (their eighth studio album). 2011 saw a four (!) CD retrospective compilation of all previously unreleased material called Days of Sun and Grass-- a special treat to their fans for all their support over the years. And the fans aren’t alone in their admiration of the impressive catalog. The Mother Hips have garnered critical acclaim from the likes of The New Yorker, Mojo, Relix, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, among many other outlets, over the years.
The album kicks off with the dark ramble of “Desert Song,” for years a forgotten and often whispered about mythic ode to sojourners of the West. Next up is “El Pancho Villa,” a one-time live show favorite that takes the early Bee Gees and rides them hard over a fuzzy, shambolic groove. “St. Andrew,” with its' historical lesson and downer country vibes, is the Hip’s feel in a nutshell. From the jackhammer hard rock of the title track to the organ-laden blues raunch of “Headache To Headache,” Chronicle Man’s reintroduction of these unearthed gems will satisfy old fans and newcomers alike. Please step up and give it some of your time and attention.