The British rock press has declared the Sheffield band hoggboy the official scapegoat of the inevitable garage-rock backlash in England, where The Strokes first made a splash and, therefore, the place where their star has been fading most rapidly.
hoggboy’s main offense seems to be sartorial. The band dresses in street punk couture (or street nerd couture, depending on which side of the street you’re on) and the lead singer, Tom Hogg, has curly locks.
Musically, hoggboy meets the current demand for short, melodically rigorous rock songs, so they’re easy to dismiss as coattail-riders, and in interviews Hogg comes off as an insufferable piss-taker who couldn’t give a damn whether the British music press likes him or not. So as far as scapegoats go, they’re as deserving as any.
What isn’t deserving of derision is their debut album, “Or 8?,” one of the few garage-rock records that looks forward instead of backward or sideways. Hogg’s estimable pop sense is best appreciated in snatches: the cooing counterpoint chorus of “Urgh!!!” and the insouciance with which he wraps his vocals around the hand-claps in “Upside Down.” But if gimmicks are his strong suit, he has enough sense and talent not to repeat them.
For all their dedication to retro style, hoggboy’s sound resists comparisons to that of their forebears. They don’t have to be filtered through a history lesson to make an impression. The band isn’t afraid to take chances and when they succeed they succeed big.
How many current groups, garage-identified or other, would position an instrumental as the centerpiece of their debut album? “Call Me Suck” is a blistering guitar frenzy that acts as both a climax for the first half and an intro to the second. It’s the rock song of the season; or, at least, the next 20 minutes.