Hawk vs. Dove, Hawk vs. Dove: An Unexpected Landing

A fun game to play for first-time listeners of the four-piece Hawk vs. Dove‘s self-titled, self-released debut might be to give the songs a runthrough and try to guess where on earth the band might be from. On my initial hearing, I ran a geographical gamut from Georgia to London to Brooklyn to California, going by the various influences I heard in their sound, from angular riffing to sweet multiple-participant vocal arrangements, languid rhythms and periods of thick, crunching stomp that give way to classic rocking guitar and organ interplay, subdued moody crescendos and drawn-out melodies. Finally I settled on Portland, if only because it seemed to me the region where such a melting pot of elements might thrive, given the variety of the scene there.

Spoiler alert: Hawk vs. Dove are from Dallas, Texas. They recorded the eight songs of Hawk vs. Dove at The Echo Lab in Denton, following a series of digital singles, and have put it out both on CD and vinyl with detailed artwork from Larry Carey. The foursome — guitarist/vocalist Johnny Hardy, guitarist/vocalist Sean Butler, bassist/vocalist James Losoya and drummer/vocalist Joe Hardy — have little of the Southern metal burl to their tones, but what they offer instead makes the 39 minutes of their debut a much more enjoyable listening experience; a genuine sense of assured aesthetic while also keeping a diverse approach to their songs and shifting the mood along with the tempo. Even on CD, Hawk vs. Dove is broken into sides, and rightly so, beginning with the winding Skynyrd-via-Mastodon riff of “Between the Headlines,” the shortest cut on the record at 2:31 and a motor-ready mover to build immediate momentum as they go forward.

Right away, the vocals make an impression. “Between the Headlines” is brief, but it establishes the singing as one of Hawk vs. Dove‘s standout factors, and the band continue to prove their ability in this regard throughout the tracks, whether it’s in the actual performances of the members or the skillful hand with which those performances are arranged. “The Sabbath” might just as easily be named for its bassline, but half-time drumming gives the track an open feel to go with its initial stomp and the slow-rolling verse, the alternately Queens of the Stone Age and Radiohead vibes of which reminded me of some of Crystal Head‘s well-honed dynamics, but Joe‘s drumming keeps a sense of motion underlying even the stillest parts of Hawk vs. Dove, so that when the Losoya-thickened Helmet-style groove of “Only Words” — its pacing fluid and undulating — takes hold, it’s no more out of place than “The Sabbath” was coming off of “Between the Headlines.”

Johnny and Sean work mostly in tandem on “Only Words,” but still find room for lead/rhythm interplay, enhancing the noisy feel that (East Coast boy that I am) I always relate to Unsane but could just as easily be culled from The Jesus Lizard or any number of other acts, and though the first three tracks are relatively short — all under four minutes — compared to what follows, Side A of Hawk vs. Dove finds its arrival point in the drumroll and brazen classic heavy riffing of “(Run the) Rockwaltz,” organ joining the guitar while the vocals weave into and out of falsetto and a sense of bluesy chaos pervades a desert booziness. There’s the inevitable jam, and Hawk vs. Dove let it ride to the end, gradually deconstructing “(Run the) Rockwaltz” (the initial minutes of which are, indeed, a waltz) as they play out its 8:35 so that by the finish, there’s nothing left but a wash of amp noise and some fed-up sounding cymbal crashes.

By and large, Side B is darker feeling, but not necessarily any more or less complex than the first half of the album. “Time Again” sets its build from zero, vocals barely audible at first over minimalist guitar but rising quickly over the first minute and once more reinforcing both the moaning Thom Yorke¬†influence the notion that just because something is derived from pop doesn’t mean there needs to be a sacrifice of tonal weight. Big-sounding and punctuated by Joe‘s heavy tom work, “Time Again” finds release in its chorus and is patient in getting there, a solo in the second half enhancing the already memorable melody line as the vocals return over top. Pacing-wise, it’s slower than much of Side A and at its intro point, “Wild Life” seems like it’s going to stick to a similar methodology, though the lead guitar gives a tension that gets its payoff later into the track. Like “Time Again” before it, “Wild Life” is a vocal highlight, keeping quiet for the first couple minutes — though there’s some spectacular layering around the 1:30 mark — and building in kind with the music.

Not to belabor the point, but even when “Wild Life” shifts into more straightforward, faster instrumental spheres, the vocals move smoothly as well, finding their apex just before halfway through only to be answered back by a plotted but still appropriate guitar solo. Both Joe and James take a back seat, but hold together a straightforward groove under the airy verses and coalesce in the transition to the chorus, which when extended and soloed over also serves as the outro, its deceptively lumbering progression keeping some of the moody feeling of “Time Again” in the subconscious of the listener as the tempo continues to quicken with “Old News,” revitalizing some of the winding aspects of “Between the Headlines” but offering a more dangerous, less friendly context for them. Its midsection mounts a tension in the toms and repeated guitar lines that never really gets its release as Hawk vs. Dove shift back into the verse, but the shouts in the final chorus would seem to be trying to fill some of that gap, the song grinding to a halt to let closer “(Unknown)” cap the album.

It does so in summarizing fashion, bringing together the vocal harmonies, the heavy crunch, the vaguely psychedelic leanings and just about everything else, setting it to a sub-mathy rhythm and then pushing the whole thing headfirst into single-hit stops and thuds that serve as the foundation for the slow march on which the album makes its way out. Gradually, a languid chorus makes its way in, but they don’t again fully depart from those hits, riffing in the breaks and letting everything fall apart around them while the drawling, sad harmonies play out Hawk vs. Dove‘s last lines. Their ending isn’t their most outstanding moment, but by then, they’ve already made the statement the songs seem intent on making in terms of establishing the band as having a firm grip on their sound, a progressive mentality minus the posturing and the capability to craft memorable pieces united by stellar but still not showy vocal work. Bands have been built on far less, and while I’ll be intrigued to find out how Hawk vs. Dove might develop as songwriters and work to refine their structural basis for playing out the sonic variety they do on their first outing, already these tracks leave a strikingly positive impression. Next time, I’ll guess Dallas.

Hawk vs. Dove, Hawk vs. Dove (2013)

Hawk vs. Dove on Thee Facebooks

Hawk vs. Dove on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply