The Hydrothermal Vents - Secrets of the Deep
Release Date: July 5, 2014
Record Label: Self-Released
It’s been a good years for eighties throwback pop. Two of my favorite records of the year, Days of Abandon by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Strange Desire by Bleachers, are loving tributes to the kind of pop music that would soundtrack John Hughes movies back in the day. And the Hydrothermal Vents’ Secrets of the Deep, while not nearly as pop-centric as either of those records, is cut from the same uber-nostalgic cloth.
As you’ll quickly realize with this record, that’s not a bad thing. The genre tag on Secrets of the Deep reads “dance-rock” and “post-punk,” but the Hydrothermal Vents find much of their inspiration in pure pop sounds. Opening track, “Inside a Movie,” is a swirling fusion of staccato vocals and radar blip synths. A looping Pixes-esque bassline brings a bit of punk into the mix, but for the most part, the falsetto-heavy vocal interplay between band members John Tielli and Tessa Kautzman is pure bubblegum pop bliss.
And that’s not a bad thing, either. While pop has become a four-letter word for many music fans in this day and age—when liking the music on the radio is for some reason looked down upon—it’s a hat that fits well for the Hydrothermal Vents. In fact, the band is considerably less effective when they go for less harmonious or more “rock”-based sounds. Case in point is “Out of Their Cages,” a loud and jagged mid-album cut that sounds a bit like the frustrated post-punk U2 was making early in their career. Tielli searches fruitlessly for a melody throughout the song, and it ends up being a middling distraction from a record that has numerous more interesting things to offer.
One of those more interesting things is “Hydrothermal Vents”—the song, not the band. The track carries over the Boy-era U2 influence of “Out of Their Cages,” but has more time to settle in and find its way (it’s nearly four and a half minutes in length, unlike the 1:37 afforded to "Cages"). In fact, listen the song for a few minutes and the crisp guitar work, disorienting musical ambiance, and desperation-laced vocal work of Tielli and Kautzman will start sounding like a slightly more current band: Arcade Fire. Indeed, Tielli and Kautzman have a vocal dynamic not unlike that of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, to the point where the record starts sounding more and more like an Arcade Fire album as it goes, from the Stars-like “Neptune’s Grave” to the Clash-y surf rock of album closer, “Fish out of Land.” If you are one of the people who wish Arcade Fire had gone for a darker and looser feel after Funeral, chances are that you’ll feel immediately home on Secrets of the Deep.
But even as the Hydrothermal Vents plunge deeper and deeper into their post-punk sound, the seamless pop of “Inside a Movie” remains the highlight. The track builds and spirals for nearly four and a half minutes, showcasing an impressive belting vocal from Kautzman, and building into a piece of dream pop that recalls both Jimmy Eat World’s “Goodbye Sky Harbor” and LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great.” It’s a terrific song and a great—if slightly false—mission statement. All of the songs on Secrets of the Deep have something unique to offer, but maybe next time around, the Hydrothermal Vents can harness the pop sensibility of “Inside a Movie” and channel it into an entire album of songs every bit as infectious.