Album Review – Skinny Puppy “hanDover” 2011

  Skinny Puppy’s more successful moments occur when the songwriters among the band members act as checks and balances on one another. This is why reunion album The Greater Wrong of the Right worked (with everyone on their best behaviour and dedicated to making a Big Damn Album) and Rabies was so popular (guest producer Alain Jourgensen acting as wedge/buffer/common foe). By the same token, Mythmaker left me cold, as it had too much of one Kevin and not enough of the other for my liking. 

hanDover manages to strike a fair  balance and channel a bit of nostalgia along the way. The sparse minimalism of opening track “Ovirt” sounds as though it would be at home on Bites/Remission, and is followed by “Cullorblind”, which has much in common with the Process period. Mid-record breather song “Brownstone” finds Nivek Ogre veering into Ritalin-style storytime side project territory before hanDover continues its journey from simpler beginnings to densely structured Greater Wrong style pounders “Vyrisus” and “Village”. The listener can hit Stop at this point to keep things in a dance floor mood, or move on to the obligatory lengthy noise-sculpture finale.

“Village” is the single, and seems designed to assuage any doubts that hanDover has the means to please older fans, who won’t be able to keep themselves from grinning when Ogre deploys his old-school shriek on the chorus.  What I like about it is that it takes the same slinky disco bassline that so many imitators have been marrying to Puppy’s groundbreaking electronics work since Too Dark Park and absolutely schools it, resulting in a brilliant Charlie Clouser dance track without actually requiring Clouser himself.

Well thought out, thematically sound and far more enjoyably listenable than the band’s fans have come to expect, hanDover succeeds as recreation rather than being a chore, and does so without sacrificing the exploratory spirit of  its creators.  8.5 out of 10

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