Then again, if you believe...


Hailing from the musical landmark town that gave us the post-punk of The Replacements and Soul Asylum and the glam-funk of Prince, Minneapolis snow angels The Hang Ups offer twelve glowy, pensive pop songs on their second full-length release, So We Go. "We wanted to make this a classic album," says guitarist/lead singer Brian Tighe. Well, they've succeeded. A year in the making, So We Go is song after song of enduring, genuine beauty - one of those rare "classic" albums that people want to listen to all the way through, over and over again.

The three original Hang Ups - Brian, bassist/guitarist Jeff Kearns and drummer Steve Ittner - first met in 1987 at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. To Brian, a native of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, Minneapolis seemed staggeringly cosmopolitan, with its buzzing music scene and record stores stocked with local singles. As a child, he had been encouraged by his jazz-singer mother and writer father to play saxophone and guitar, but when he listened to Hüsker Dü for the first time, he marveled, "I've never heard music like this before." After a less-than-fulfilling job assisting a noted artist in New York City, Brian rejected visual art and began writing songs in his tiny YMCA hotel room - songs that eventually became the first "real" Hang Ups tunes.

Brian later returned with the new songs, and, with world-traveler Jeff (the son of an airline pilot, he's lived in half a dozen cities in three different countries) and second-generation local musician Steve, revved up The Hang Ups to create a Minneapolis "pop renaissance." It wasn't long before they were packing the city's best spaces with crowds hungry for relief from the prevailing "bully rock" fare. Along came local noise guru and scene veteran John Crozier, who joined after chiding the boys that they needed to add a "pound of espresso" to their sound. Soon after John's elegant, edgy guitar work became an integral part of the band's evolving style, the well-respected local label Clean Records (a division of Twin/Tone-Restless) signed them and released their full-length debut He's After Me and EP Comin' Through. Both records earned The Hang Ups critical raves and an even larger fan that now eagerly awaits the unveiling of So We Go.

On this remarkable new album, from the sci-fi tinged escapism of "Sweet Tooth," to the existential questioning of "Clouds," to the joyous waking stretch of "Top of Morning," Brian continues to contemplate and explore central themes of love, friendship, jealousy, contentment, upheaval and solitude. The sincere, reverent mood created by "What It's All About" permeates the entire album, linking Brian's ten songs with songwriting debuts by both Steve and Jeff; Steve bids a soulful farewell to a lover with "I'm in the Picture," while Jeff provides the ethereal "Sittin' In My Room," a song that packs a winter day's worth of epic ennui into its few fleeting minutes.

Produced by perfectly-matched Bryan Hanna, who was sympathetic to the band's complex sonic goals of balancing dissonance and delicacy, So We Go is a mix made in heaven. It is a soundtrack for those areas of existence usually unscored in rock 'n' roll fantasies - how the morning feels, that certain head space of a walk alone in the city, the ambivalence of a bus ride home. Or, as Jeff words it, "the way you can sometimes get the top spinning in you."

Clean/Restless 4/97


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