Hear the Buffalo, NY post-punk quartet's urgent new single off their upcoming LP "Last Chance Power Drive"
Photo by M. Thomas Duggan
Buffalo, NY’s Alpha Hopper named their upcoming LP Last Chance Power Drive. It’s of course a reference to Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics in the final verse of “Born to Run”:
The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight
But there’s no place left to hide
It’s always been one of my favorite Springsteen phrases, and I was thrilled someone decided to use it for an album name. It encompasses the desperation and longing present in so much Springsteen, as he and his characters push themselves to extremes to grab a bit of control over what fate has dealt them. They appreciate and seize every chance for freedom because they know it could be their only shot.
While Alpha Hopper has been playing since 2014, this is their debut album, and it’s recorded with the urgency and power of knowing that it might be their last. It’s a stellar record, and I hope they make many more, but you can always tell when a musician treats a performance like they might not get to do it again, or a recording like it’s their one chance to prove what they’ve got. And that’s not just a trick to get the adrenaline up, it’s the reality for most bands, especially those without an excess of resources, time, or connections. Ever trip down the highway could be the final one, and you never have the privilege of half-assing it on any given night.
On “Exploding Money” Alpha Hopper gives us that immediacy, offering a counterpoint to the complacency and tepidness vocalist Irene Rekhviashvili mocks throughout the track: “He’s a body in a jar, / He’s so glad he’s come so far / She’s a body in a vat / And she’s so happy with that.” The introductory guitar line is straight from The Argument era Fugazi, and the first half of the song recalls some of that record’s dissonant groove. The instrumentalists – John Toohill, Ryan McMullen, and Doug Scheider – punch forward with alternating post-punk repitition and metal lines, as Rekhviashvili’s catchy melodies guide us through the harsher guitar twists and turns. The song peaks as a repteaded ascending riff enters and Rekhviashvili shouts “So Happy!” over and over.
The second half of that Springsteen verse goes: “Together Wendy / We’ll live with the sadness / I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul.” Through the sarcastic “So Happy” chant, Rekhviashvili tells us something similar. Not that real happiness is bad, but that if choosing the status quo means a shallow, false happiness, then we better go down another path, even if it means living with a certain sadness and a neverending urgency. Alpha Hopper’s power offers us a bit of a brighter light to lead us down that highway, and we need all the help we can get.
The band’s LP comes out on One Percent Press on August 27. You can pre-order the album now.