I first got served a nice Hot Lunch via their debut 7”, “Killer Smile” on Who Can You Trust Records last year and was knocked sideways by the band’s brash and hypercharged take on 60’s garage rock, 70’s boogie and snotty punk. It turns out the two songs on the single were merely a taster for a much broader range of sounds that this American four piece are capable of as this debut album will firmly attest.
Kicking off in prime, amped up MC5 style with “Handy Denny” it’s clear that Hot Lunch are out to grab you by the nuts like a pit bull and keep squeezing until this album has wrung you dry. Within the first two songs the band have ripped their way through more riffs that the first two Black Sabbath albums put together and there is no let up from here on in. “Ripped At The Seams” opts for a tight but loose Blue Cheer style grind with Eric Shea’s manic vocal delivery evoking John Garner at his most deranged in the early days of Sir Lord Baltimore. Other bands that Hot Lunch tip their hats to through the course of these nine tracks, to varying degrees include the spastic blues of The Groundhogs, the theatrical intensity of The Alice Cooper Band, the raw, soulful blast of Grand Funk Railroad, the explosive crunch of The Who through to the trippy psychedelia of The Doors…albeit without an incoherent drunken pub singer fronting them.
It isn’t all noise though. The epically lengthy “Lady Of The Lake” displays a level of tenderness with a lightly folky vibe, not too dissimilar to Sir Lord Baltimore’s “Lake Isle Of Innisfree”. That’s not to say that the bombast is too far away as the band play with a loud-soft dynamic that culminates in a female spoken piece of pure hallucinogenic gibberish that is equal parts ludicrous and genius. By contrast, the brief “She Wants More” blasts in a fog of boogie that makes Foghat look like Barry Manilow, Shea barely maintaining his breath and composure as he rages through the lyrics. “Tragedy Prevention”, like many of its predecessors pitches from riff to riff with wild abandon and even features what sounds like a Vox Organ to paint extra sonic textures. This is one area in which Hot Lunch excel. They are not bound, in the studio at least, by the constraints of the sound of their equipment and are happy to employ other means which to make their point, such as the Leslie speaker affected vocals on “Gold Lyre” or the Gregorian chanting on the Sabbath meets Misfits vibed “Monks On The Moon”.
Everything about this album screams of the late 60’s/early 70’s right down to the reverb ridden production and amps being pushed so hard you can almost smell the dust burning off the valves. A modern, processed production would have completely stripped Hot Lunch of that vital energy that they possess and serves to show that the atmosphere is the key ingredient in any recording…get that right and you have a winner on your hands.
Hot Lunch have created a minor masterpiece on this album. Those who dipped their toes into the band via their 7” will find everything they might have hoped for and a whole lot more besides. This is an album that has the rare distinction of being an immediate win on the first listen but also a grower as repeated listens will reveal the full extent of the band’s combined skills and insanity!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall