If The Beatles grew up listening to the Ramones, the result would be The HandGrenades. With the release of their debut album The Morning After on Ghetto Records (The White Stripes, Electric Six), these upstarts are poised to make the jaded wallflowers sit up, pay respect, and then head onto the dance floor.
This Detroit band has been kicking around the area for over four years at this point, beginning their climb when they were all still teens. When I first saw them they were dressed like greasers and looked nervous, but I couldn’t help but dance like a fool with the temperature topping 90 degrees. They’ve outgrown the matching outfits but their skin-tight harmonies and infectious hooks are the same ones that make The Morning After a shoe-in for the feel good album you’ll want to play all summer.
The winsome foursome includes Nick Chevillet and the brothers Pawelski: Andrew and Tom. The three share vocals, guitar and bass duties, frequently swapping instruments. Backing them up with the abandon of a real-life, sweaty incarnation of Animal from The Muppets is Joby Koslowski.
With the premium placed on quirkiness, preciousness and out-and-out oddity in an effort to be set apart in a saturated music scene, The HandGrenades stand alone. Their approach to music is thoroughly unfussy. Their influences aren’t groups awash with synthesized beats or elaborate stagecraft. They modeled themselves instead on British Invasion bands like the Beatles, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones: hard working, guitar driven rock and roll that cuts to the chase. And like The Beatles and The Stones, these boys share the songwriting duties, with every number sung by its writer. Lyrically, the band keeps it deceptively simple. With songs about “Canadian Girls” and doing “What Makes You Feel Good” you could easily miss the turns of phrase that lay the truth bare.
Every track on The Morning After is inescapably hum-able even after the first listen, and raises the question, “Why don’t they play this on the radio?” The expert construction suggests the truth that the album was polished to a high shine with a grueling schedule of near constant live performances. It comes as no surprise then, that for all of its pleasures, their new record can’t hold a candle to the rough and ready energy of their stage performance. Their boozy banter and brotherly antics imbue the live versions of the songs with a playful spontaneity that (as is often the case) gets somewhat lost in translation.
Fresh and feisty off an appearance at last month’s SXSW festival, The HandGrenades are slotted to play the Detroit X Detroit show at The Magic Stick on April 14th. One of the weirdest shows of the year, this annual Motor City love-fest features 16 Detroit bands performing as 16 other Detroit bands. It’s like Halloween in April! The HandGrenades will be performing as their buddies The High Strung. Catch them if you can.