(Cutty Shark, 2001)
Looks like the local weather gods – vinyl fans, apparently – listened to the internet sobbings of Jason Seven Inches and I Think I Hate My 45s Me, because today the neverending rain actually held off long enough to allow me to attend a minor league baseball game. And not only did I receive a free Barack Obama bobblehead at the gate, but I, a betting man, also got to make a wager with my companion concerning one Daniel April, a left-handed reliever outta Colorado who made his professional debut in this very game. My GUARANTEE is that this guy is going to make it to the major leagues some day, even if it’s just for one pitch five or six years down the road. Yes, I GUARANTEE IT! Now, is that because I have a sharp scouting eye and could see something special over the one-and-a-third innings April threw for the short-season Hudson Valley Renegades tonight? Heck no! It’s because he’s a left-handed reliever! All of those guys get called up sooner or later, schlubs or otherwise! So here’s hoping you make a fine career of it, young Daniel April, and here’s hoping I collect a cool FIVE BUCKS in the not-too-distant future.
BUT. On a more serious note, as a wise man once observed, the word “baseball” ends with two L’s. As does the word, or shall we say band name, “Hopewell.” And that’s an eerie yet excellent point, wise man!
OK, all classic segues aside, what was Hopewell getting itself up to in 2001? Well, other than releasing the gooey, hard-hitting druggernaut pop LP The Curved Glass (most of which had been recorded four years earlier!), these fellers from upstate NY were busy dribbling out 7”s and EPs chock fulla porky-prime cuts. Like “The Angel is My Watermark,” a rompin’, stompin’ single-edit of the album’s best track, one that’s heavy on the toms, the fuzz, and the melodic knife-twisting, a perfect blend of ’90s space-rock and millennial Fridmann bombast. Lunar pomp? Yes! WOW! A song this swell certainly deserves to be heard in four different incarnations, and thankfully that’s just what Hopewell offered at the time: The LP contains both the “standard” “Angel” and an instrumental reprise; the 7” has the truncated “North Atlantic Edit” (first released on a 2000 Fierce Panda multi-artist EP called “Clooney Tunes”); and the CD EP features a full-length mix that joins the two sections from the album into one ultimate version. Yeepers! Also included on the 7” and the EP, “Incantatio” is an experimental zone-out that moves from hushed lullaby to rhythm-centric tribal-clomp; it’s interesting and worth hearing, but seems to belong more to the band’s earlier, “freer” phase than to the more carefully-structured act it was by now evolving into. And while that semi-schizophrenia of vision would soon be resolved after a few years and a few lineup changes on The Birds of Appetite, these 2000/2001 releases still represent, for better or worse (mostly the former), the most interesting and varied phase of Hopewell’s career – the period while the band was “mature,” essentially, but still figuring out exactly what it wanted to do and be.