No-frills post-punk/post-pop playing sets Hooded Fang’s 2017 album apart as some of the most forward-thinking and modern music of the last twenty years.
A recent review of The Fink, Daniel Lee’s new solo album as Lee Paradise, referenced the “me in 2010 vs. me in 2020” meme to contrast his latest record with that of another of his projects — Hooded Fang’s 2010 full-length debut, Album. And while those two records are from opposite poles of Lee and the rest of Hooded Fang’s musical universe, the lazy comparison dismisses Hooded Fang’s decade-long evolution from their first album to their last, 2017’s wicked and wild Dynasty House.
Taken in context alongside all of Hooded Fang’s catalogue and Lee and bandmate April Aliermo’s Phèdre project, Album is the real outlier. At a succinct twenty-six-minute running time, Dynasty House’s six songs feature Hooded Fang at the height of their creative powers. It may appear more like an EP than LP, but it truly comes together as a fully formed and fleshed out record that’s never received its due.
Dynasty House is a mansion of many rooms. Lyrically, “Queen Of Agusan Del Norte” reads like some kind of medieval folk reel, but in practice, it’s an ominous and moody fractured fairytale; dark overtones shot through with Hooded Fang’s always-present playful spirit. Lee barely raises his voice above a casual conversational tone, but he delivers Aliermo’s words with seriousness, highlighting their deeper subtext. It is one of many instances on Dynasty House that references lives lived in other places, on other shores. Lee and Aliermo’s inspirations came from their parents and their immigration experiences, and though direct references are few and far between, Dynasty House still conveys a strength of spirit and tenacity to keep moving (the album’s credits shout out“Immigrants of the world and everything they go through to keep themselves and their loved ones alive and well.”)
Ultimately, the real evolution isn’t in what Hooded Fang says in their songs, but the setting in which they place those words. By upending any sense of the traditional pop song, Hooded Fang gives themselves the freedom to run through Dynasty House, exploring the outer rims of melody and rhythm (see the way “Doñamelia” recycles and reconstructs its central hook over and over for the former and how bassist Aliermo and drummer D. Alex Meeks set fire to “Sisters and Suns” for the latter). When it all comes together as it does on “Nene of the Light,” it’s undeniable that Hooded Fang is in their comfort zone, cramming more musical ideas into six-and-a-half minutes than “uhs” in a Justin Trudeau speech of the same length.
Like the best examples of brutalist architecture, Dynasty House may not be the prettiest record on the block. Still, its distinctive style of angular, no-frills post-punk/post-pop playing sets it apart as some of the most forward-thinking and modern music of the last twenty years.