Album #164: Hum – Inlet

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Champaign, Illinois, USA
  • Label: Earth Analog
  • Best Track: Desert Rambler

I don’t know whether it’s down to the inertia of global lockdown, but the last few months have seen a few artists who have been dormant for ages suddenly drop new albums out of the blue. The X comeback album Alphabetland has been the nice surprise of the year for me so far, and I’ll soon be reviewing Neil Young’s Homegrown, an album written and recorded in the mid-1970s that he’d kept to himself until releasing it last Friday.

The latest spontaneous album from a somewhat forgotten band is Inlet by shoegazy alt-rockers Hum. The band have hinted at releasing a fifth album over the last few years, but nobody expected it to land yesterday, on an innocuous Tuesday at the end of June, and become their first LP since 1998.

In a decade as rich in alternative music as the ’90s, the band’s 1995 album You’d Prefer an Astronaut is a seriously underappreciated record. I’ll admit I haven’t heard a lot else by them, but it seems they’ve moved a lot more towards a heavier, alternative metal sound on this comeback record, with a few tracks nearing the 10-minute mark.

Early reactions suggest their fans love it. Personally, I’m not really feeling it. There are good moments, particularly the growling, winding ‘Desert Rambler’ and ‘Cloud City’. ‘Step Into You’ is the shortest track on the album at four minutes, and is the closest to their earlier work with the driving guitars.

Myself, I appreciated tracks from You’d Prefer…like ‘I’d Like Your Hair Long’, ‘Why I Like the Robins’ and their best-known song ‘Stars’. These had great energy, striking contrasts between the loud and quiet moments, and some clever and often witty lyrics. On Inlet, a lot of that creativity seems to shrink in the wash of the sort of overriding, swirling guitars, and it seems a shame that the depth of their work is being masked in this way.

It is well-executed and you can tell Hum can still write a song, but there’s a lot of this kind of music about at the moment, and for me, it’s much of a muchness. Nevertheless, it’s good to see them back and perhaps people who are familiar with their full catalog will enjoy this more.

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