Champaign champions Hum back with a fresh and exciting masterwork reunion album
Illinois alt-rock band Hum have always been somewhat of a hidden treasure, even with their brief flash in the pan success, eventually breaking up more than two decades ago. Now, with a secretly released full-length album of brand new material and a refreshing, yet familiar sound, Hum deliver the seminal come-back record with Inlet.
Hum’s initial existence was somewhat brief and modest, only putting out three albums, including You’d Prefer An Astronaut (1995), and Downward is Heavenward (1998), to moderate commercial success and airplay, while maintaining an intensely devoted underground following. You’d Prefer An Astronaut produced the hit single “Stars,” landing them appearances on MTV’s 120 Minutes, Beavis and Butt-head, Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Conan O’Brien, but the fame was not to stay, quietly disbanding in 2000 after a car accident while on tour in Canada.
Randomly reuniting and playing shows with indie and post-hardcore favorites such as Touché Amoré, Balance & Composure and Failure as recently as 2016, Hum surprised their fanbase and longtime listeners with the release of a beast of a come-back album. Inlet brings an extremely refreshing and yearning wave of sound through their trademark gargantuan guitar tones and riffs, Bryan St. Pere’s hard-hitting drumming and unique indie quirks and aesthetics.
Hum devastate people’s world on the opening explosion that is “Waves,” the ideal album opener that draws many comparisons to the slower-paced album openers on their last two records. The massive, droney guitar chords and nostalgic vocals surround the listener, speckled with passionately picked guitar leads that phase into and out of existence. This style follows suit on the tracks “In The Den,” “Step Into You” and “Cloud City,” somehow crafting the catchiest and most clever hooks with masterful minimalism, usually only consisting of a handful of sections that alternate between a verse and chorus, with flavorings of post-rock through buildups, crescendos and ambient pads.
Such post-rock stylings, found on “Desert Rambler,” “The Summoning” and “Folding,” are all present on their newly-found extension of songwriting, with new song lengths unheard of for Hum tracks, reaching nine minutes at times. These space-rock epics tap into Hum’s love for alt-metal and shoegaze, with sparkling clean and earth-shattering dirty guitar tones highly reminiscent of their past contemporaries from My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (1991) to Helmet’s Betty (1994). As the songs progress, Hum often break into quieter passages, filling the void with Tim Lash’s twinkly but highly emotional guitar lines that seem to ascend into oblivion.
The closing track, “Shapeshifter,” is absolutely desperate and gut-wrenching, as Matt Talbot’s beckoning voice calls out over a pitch-shifting riff that eventually bleeds into a softer, more vulnerable soundscape. Again, Hum’s closing tracks on their last two albums hold similar song structures, not coming off as lazy, but rather finding a formula that works and going with it. A formula, that really, really works.
By including elements new and old, such as post-hardcore and progressive rock, Hum rehash their pioneering sound and revitalize new passion into their reincarnation with the highly mature artistic experimentation found on Downward is Heavenward and the hard-hitting alt-metal energy of You’d Prefer An Astronaut, even putting in a runtime stamp on the bottom of the artwork, found on their last two albums.
This is by no means Hum just blending their trademark style with their own influences, topped off with a brilliant sheen of crisp production, although that is certainly not a bad thing, and would make for as good a comeback as any. Rather, Hum demonstrate that their superb musicianship and sheer songwriting ability has aged like a fine wine, offering something for practically everyone.
Hum is your favorite band’s favorite band, with a wide array of artists, including alt-metal heroes Deftones and Cave In, as well as shoegaze stars Nothing and Deafheaven citing Hum as massive influences. Although not completely obscure, Hum remained semi-dormant for years in a purgatory of apparent critical acclaim and a devout fanbase following, but little of the long-lasting commercial or wide-reaching recognition that they deserved. This comes as a direct result of Hum’s refusal to fit into any one scene, being too heavy for the indie kids and too quirky for the metal crowd, as well as Hum’s damaging but mature reluctance to regularly tour and record, opting to operate on an informal, sporadic, basis, at least prior to the release of Inlet.
Hum’s extremely welcome reunion album is the best possible thing to add onto their delicately superb body of work, especially considering a twenty-two year hiatus from releasing music. If Hum were to walk away, leaving their beloved fans wanting more for another two decades, Inlet would be the album to do so with.