Who? : Hometown Hero

February 14, 2010

NOTE: This is the first of my, “Who?  “  segments, which will focus on a mainstream act that, for whatever reason, slipped under the radar of major success.

This may surprise some of you, but it wasn’t until I was 17 when I started regularly seeing bands in a live setting (other than the classic rock showcases I happily attended with my dad as a youth).  It should, however, come as no surprise that Foo Fighters was one of my first, as well as second, concerts-in fact, it was at the second appearance, down at The Riviera in Chicago, that I happened to see some band called Hometown Heroes opening for the Foos, a California-based group that was actually called Hometown Hero and surprisingly put on a blistering, energetic set.  At the time, I hadn’t seen many good opening acts (anyone ever seen Blonde Redhead?  )  , so these guys were a breath of fresh air.

Strangely, I never could seem to find any music or info regarding the band in the time that followed, and eventually regulated them to the space in my brain also occupied by Semisonic and Fastball.  However, in early 2002 I was pleased to see some rumblings about new music from Hometown Hero online, thanks to the Foo Fighters Postboard, and quickly hurried over to their site to see what all the fuss was about.

Three songs were up for download at the time: “Questions, “ “Eighteen, “ and, “Bleeds In Blue, “ all of which seemed to capture the energy and frenzy of the performance I’d witnessed a year earlier.  Fuzzy guitars, punchy drums, and the sharp vocals of lead singer Aaron Bruno grabbed my attention, with, “Questions, “ easily the standout.  The other two seemed to follow the same format as, “Questions, “ with, “Eighteen, “ having a bit of a ballad vibe.

It wasn’t long after that I learned the boys were coming to Milwaukee opening for Tenacious D, one of the most unusual matchups I’ve ever heard of.  Nevertheless, my good friend Kevin Boger (ribsramblings.wordpress.com) and I were already attending the show, meaning we’d be seeing Hometown Hero anyway.  Unfortunately, the band failed to win over the crowd, who were clearly in more of a two-man acoustic guitar mood than a four-piece rock band mood, and were subjected to heckles & even a copy of their sampler EP being tossed (or, should I say, pitched) at their bassist during, “Questions.  “  Poor guys.

Despite the lackluster reception they received that night, I still purchased a baby blue shirt I wore faithfully and even bought their full-length upon release later that spring.  The disc, however, is quite the mess-the drums are ALWAYS too punchy, the guitars are ALWAYS too fuzzy, and the melodic nature of the songs seems overshawdowed by the muddy production of John Travis (Buckcherry, Static-X).  As well as the fuzzy guitars.  Seriously, it’s bad.

And that’s really all I can say about the disc.  Other than, “Questions, “ the songs are somewhat boring and go in a number of different musical directions.  “Everything Out Of Water, “ is a slow burner that might be one of the more creative songs on the disc, that is if you can make it through without falling asleep.  “Run Right Through, “ feels like two completely different songs put together, what with the screamy verses and low-key chorus.  “Bleeds In Blue, “ and “Twelve Ounce, “ seem to have potential, however the goofy-sounding guitars, clearly an attempt to sound melodic, sound a tad stupid.  There’s no question we’re dealing with talented musicians here, but this group doesn’t seem to be the right fit.

It didn’t take long for the band to realize this as well-following tours with Hoobastank, Papa Roach and Incubus, the band lost drummer Ray Blanco in 2003, and despite replacing him with former Audiovent drummer Jamin Wilcox shortly thereafter & recording a follow-up disc called Bitch City, the band finally threw in the towel in 2004.  Frontman Aaron Bruno, guitarist Drew Stewart and drummer Jamin Wilcox would eventually go on to form the Scissor Sisters-esque Under The Influence Of Giants, which experienced moderate success throughout 2006/2007 before also breaking up not long after.  If I’m not mistaken, the former members are now working on new projects, either solo or with new groups.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t involve fuzzy guitars.

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One Response to “Who? : Hometown Hero”

  1. Ribs Says:

    I’m very sad to here they broke up … wait. No. I’m not.


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