A Clear Mistake by Hate Club
“All your favorite local bands moved away / you’re complaining about something new every day.” So heralds singer/guitarist Noah Bondy at the beginning of Hate Club’s new EP “A Clear Mistake.” Those who’ve followed Bondy’s various writing projects through the years will recognize this hallmark lyrical style that’s made him a scene favorite: somewhere between droll and acerbic, Bondy offers up niche commentary about his community that could be about one try-hard as much as it could be about everyone in town. Here he uses his dry wit to take the temperature of the come-and-go music culture of his home city Albany, NY. His humor is always dry, quick, and edgy -- perhaps best exhibited by the cover photo of the EP, a candid shot of Bondy’s apartment building that caught fire mere weeks before the release date. (Everyone is safe and unharmed!) The writing of this EP took place in the immediate wake of the most recent exodus of Albany artists (including Bondy himself) to nearby metropolises of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. In classic Bondy fashion, he takes aim at himself and his friends, and the band seems poised to spend the EP commiserating with a small audience using their trademark blend of sarcasm and defeatism to address social ills.
But Hate Club’s momentum doesn’t stall because of Bondy’s recent move to Boston, along with various personnel changes (particularly a rotating cast of drummers). The band refuses to waste time here feeling down in the dumps and instead uses the recording to forward their agenda by pushing their sound further. “A Clear Mistake” is Hate Club’s second EP and marks the beginning of a searching, growing urgency in their sound. While previous releases highlighted the group’s emotional-anthemic songwriting chops, this material finds them building and expanding their pallette. Guided by favorite semi-local producer-engineer Nick “Scoops” Dardaris, the band trekked to Philadelphia’s Headroom studio to record over a busy weekend. There they sculpted their material, building on the core material with piano, tambourine, bongos, inventive microphone techniques, and a brief stylistic detour into The Cure-inspired goth rock, in homage to Bondy’s favorite band and perhaps in reference to his previous group, Slowshine.
But Bondy isn’t the only one holding court here. Audrey Goodemote, the group’s co-founder, shares vocal and guitar duties, while collaborating directly on lyrical and songwriting decisions. Goodemote lends a distinct brand of sweetner-laced slacker sarcasm that’s even more subtle than Bondy’s, and more rewarding to those who listen closely. “Today I’ll see a break in the sky as it changes / I don’t need anyone to say pretty things to” she sings on “Earth Song,” delicately painting a moment of personal revelation about interpersonal relationships, before shifting to a more assertive tone in the song’s chorus “You’re no different than how you were / I’ll take back everything you took.” She takes aim at the kind of oblivious guy who speaks down to her about her interest in astrology while cultivating almost no self-awareness. The band’s lyrics constantly take aim at the kind of person who thinks “hating” is a personality trait, deflecting a criticism often leveled at their own attitude, which is in fact realism.
The wide-lense sound of the EP reaches full fruition on closing track “Unpredictable.” Alternating between loud choruses and soft, open verses - deftly emulating the style of their 90s heroes - drummer Ian Kerr-Mace and bassist Alex Brooks fill in the gaps with powerful rhythmic playing, along with production touches from Dardaris. The song roars in its chorus, taking small observations of self-criticism and gleefully blowing them up into an anthem of self-affirmation. And just as the song reaches it’s triumphant second chorus, it fades out in a jarring final chord, like the breaking of a wave on an empty beach - followed briefly by a joyful noise: someone saying “woo!” excitedly in the background. It’s the perfect encapsulation of Hate Club’s start-and-go approach in both their lyricism and their songwriting. They shift gears with abandon without ever losing coherence or narrative arc. This EP surely shows the beginning of a new era of possibility for this talented group, whose members remain undaunted by setbacks, displacements, or criticism.