Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reasons to be Emo #200 / Hoover - The Lurid Traversal of Route 7

200th post/reason -

Previous Reasons to be Emo*:

#150 / Hot Water Music - Moonpies for Misfits

#140 / Swing Kids - Discography

#100 / Jawbreaker - Dear You

#50 / Shotmaker/Maximillian Colby - Split

#1 ? / Han Shan - s/t 7"

* if you think about shit like that, that is. Excellent analysis of that question here on the Prisonship. The half-dozen featured examples here aren't meant to be canonical, and definitely are not intended to be definitive; instead, they are choices of what that genre means to me, an ongoing selection of diverse highpoints.


The core of the genealogy, The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 was Hoover's only full-length recording. Originally recorded in 1993, in the first year of the Clinton administration, released on Dischord Records in 1994, and remastered in 2004/5. The last three songs on the CD version, 'Return', 'Private' and 'Dries' were from a separate vinyl release from the LP of Lurid Traversal, and together make up thirteen tracks on the album.

'Distant' opens up with atmospheric noise, harsh and mechanical, and a little bit of percussion, then rhythm, and then the heavy guitars kick in. It's taut, it's tense - barely controlled rage and stop-start dynamics over low, slinking basslines. "3000 mile view/ through a telescope" with the last word screamed out with an unexpected, yet not incongruent, intensity. 'Pretender' operates on the same kind of taut rhythms, locked into a driving groove with propelling guitar and vocals. The song moves forward and upwards with every riff, until disintegrating momentarily at the end.

'Electrolux' builds the sound up again slowly, with deliberate beats and ominous, humming guitar. Clearer guitar balances the equation, lulling the dubb-y, intense atmposhere of the song along. 'Electrolux' erupts, first in guitars, in shouts and screams, and then in vibrant trumpet, a soaring cacophony of sound that swells and collapses back into the rhythm below, which has grown in intensity. Minimalism conflicts with outward expression, emotion with weighty, deliberate pace.


Every song on Lurid Traversal drips with intensity and emotion, balancing explosive hardcore and post-hardcore with near-empty, Slinty post-rock, shifting between states with every verse (though, of course, there are no verses to the lyrics). Thus a song like 'Shut' winds it way between quiet and loud in a very Fugazi-ish way, focusing its emotional punch on the crescendo of guitars, yet also expressing itself in the transitional spaces between sounds. The tone created is extremely dark but with carefully crafted, melodic moments of beauty - like the cricket-filled instrumental passage of 'Route 7' - entwined with deep and sonorous rhythms. It's accessible at the same time - the opening to 'Regulator Watts' trips lightly and gently underneath whispered, distant vocals.

Again, the emphasis on rhythm propels the album on through each song, carrying the momentum of post-hardcore heaviness onwards each time, ripping it up and building it up again. 'Father' combines the stop-start dynamic with a near-continuous, insistent beat, rapidly advancing towards its chaotic explosion, and disintegrating like 'Pretender' into annihilating noise. Similar but more immediate and direct than 'Electrolux', 'Cable' shouts out its rhythms with brassy, brash anxiety, and climbs into the heights with distorted reggae and blues riffs.


The dynamics and contrasts of typical 'emo' guitar bands, like the tender yet destructive passions of Indian Summer, course through The Lurid Traversal, but are combined with the equally typical complexities of Dischord post-hardcore groups, resulting in epic and intense creations of late-model punk rock. The first part is evident on the arpeggiated, whispered intro to 'Letter' and its linear progress to ear-crushing, violent catharsis; the second in the equally quiet, almost abstract opening to 'Cuts Like Drugs' and, then, its expressionistic guitar jabs combined with enveloping sound and tense rhythm. In fact, the catharsis of the latter eventually emerges as the most intense of the Hoover sound.

'Cuts Like Drugs' (Live on WFMU - thanks to Matt for splitting it up)

"Some people say this sounds like Fugazi,and they miss the point. It sounds like classic DC twin-guitar midtempo style, as do Fugazi and a hundred other bands. The important part was the way the evil slithering basslines made it seem so dark and serious, and the way the singer worked up from whispering to a tortured animal howl at the end. 'Cuts Like Drugs' has it all."

Andy Radin (

"The epic "Cuts Like Drugs" plays out like the bastard child of Lungfish and Fugazi, a slow plodding drone with the guitars feedback chiming in and out wrapping itself in and around the package fully developing the experience. But it is the song "Cable" that in my eyes stand out on its own. A hymn of dissatisfaction, the brooding demons that swim through all our minds. When they cry out, "I was programed to kill you." it's almost heartbreaking in how at its most earnest these words speak out in the most succinct fashion of modern day society."

sweetbabyjaysus (Burning Down the Dreams of Forever)

"Hoover were one of the greatest DC bands to come from the Dischord label. Their full length, The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 was and is one of my favorite records. Fred Erskines bass (later of Crownhate Ruin and June of 44) is a driving force and the twin monotone guitars of Dunham and McRedmond cut and scathe and slither while Christopher Farrall keeps everything in time. Or out of time, in a very Hooverish way."

blend77 (Zen and the Art of Face Punching)

"hoover is probably the most influential dischord band never to feature ian mackaye. They arrived in them halcyon early 90s days when DC was starting to register the profound effects of dubby, downbeat-y rhythms and of touch and go records heavies like slint, the jesus lizard, rapeman et. al. Their the lurid transversal of route 7 is for me a high point in american hard/punk/core/rock…

despite so many of our friends getting engaged one way or another with corporate rocking for best and worst, dischord - and hoover - always spoke to a kind of freedom (to rock, to angst-i-fy, to experiment) that only the outlands of indie rock could abide, at least back then."

lexdexter (The Prisonship)

I'll leave you to appreciate 'Return', 'Private' and 'Dries' yourselves:

The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 on Dischord Records (CD/digital)

Download link (from Burning Down the Dreams of Forever)

Slowdime (reunion) EP and Side Car Freddie/Cable 7"


cretin said...

congrats on yet another milestone. I can't profess to be either a huge Hoover fan, or someone with a lot of experience with this album (I've listened to it a few times), but it's certainly a retrospective landmark for its genre and this is a very good analysis of it.

I think "Private" might actually be my favourite song on this, despite the fact that it trends to the more 'conventional' (for lack of a better term) side of teen discord. it's beautifully sparse and is wrought with the kind of emotion that just builds up in your throat until you choke. an extremely well-done song, and one of the first I think of when it comes to defining that kind of mid-90's post-hardcore.

gabbagabbahey said...

agreed, 'Private' is a really great song. but Hoover wouldn't be Hoover without the more 'unconventional' stuff like 'Electrolux' and 'Cable' - and it's the combination of those two sides that makes the album so unique.

lex dexter said...


you did it again. it's as if you knew i was far away from my big external hard-drive filled with music, and thus desperate for the DC staple crops. 'much appreciated.

Matt said...

Great post, great record. Every song is so beautifully crafted. "Distant" always stood out to me, being such an incendiary opener with agressive, repetitive guitar riffs that force you to sit up and listen.

And "Shut"? I love that imperative bass line that comes thumping in, and Joe's vocals are just incredible.

sean said...

Do you have access to the rest of that WFMU set? Its such good quality and the live versions of those songs are almost certainly better than anything they did in a studio.


Matt said...

Here you go Sean,

Part 1:

Part 2:

gabbagabbahey said...

I just added those links to the original post (also linked under the track here):

but yeah, what Matt has are the separate, labelled tracks. go get 'em!

d said...

I agree with all the posters, Gabba. You have certainly done it again.

gabbagabbahey said...

thanks - I'd been waiting a while to do it!

Telephone! said...

Thank you! I have never really listend to hoover before, not that iw asnt interested just never got the chance, stuff is incredible

Anonymous said...