Although I am a huge fan of big, romantic pop and rock music when it's done right, I also absolutely love to get down and dirty sometimes (again, with a few caveats). I like noisy stuff sometimes, and I like snotty music sometimes, and in a rare instance all of those things come together in a blast of sound that simply befuddles me a bit as to why I enjoy it so much. Hllyh (an abbreviation for a slurred "Hell Yeah?") by The Mae Shi is one such release, and it may be the best album yet from the group, who has been kicking around for over five years (and well over 250 shows) now.
Currently a six piece, the group certainly makes a racket like one, with live drums bumping up against programmed ones and keyboard freakouts next to guitar ripping. Multi-part vocals only add to the sheer enthusiasm, and basically the group rip through fourteen tracks in just over forty-five minutes and manage to sound like everyone from hiccuping Blood Brothers to a freaked-out Polyphonic Spree in the process.
It's all hyper-active to start with, and the group bursts through more than a handful of spastic songs to open the album, moving from almost bubble gum sing-alongs to noisy blowouts. "Pwnd" combines both, with rustling, melodic sections that give way to full-on blasts of power-chords, flailing vocals, and pounding drums. "The Melody" bounces 8-bit synths down the stairs as more over-the-top vocals mingle with loud guitars and percussion, melting into a far-too-long piercing tone before rambling into a frantic closing section. Oh, and it all goes down in barely over two minutes.
Even though it runs a fairly manageable length, Hlllyh could also be called out as a bit indulgent, with a nearly twelve-minute remix track that combines elements of just about every single song from the album landing halfway through the release. Considering the running length of other songs on the album are about 3 minutes, the sheer length makes it feel a bit out of place, yet the rave-style builds and flow of the long piece actually make it work a lot better than it should, with some songs coming out better in the rinse than they did originally.
At times, the group even hit on songs that veer away from their blistering attack and seriously latch into something so pop that you could almost hear them catching on big. "Run To Your Grave" takes a little bit to get going, but moves with such a simple, yet catchy sing-along step-down melody (augmented by hand-claps!) that you can't help but get wrapped up. Likewise is "I Get (Almost) Everything I Want," which takes a choir of vocals, strummed guitar chords, and freestyle drums and melts it all into a delirious, anthem-style blowout. It's not all smooth-sailing, and in places the group does tend to repeat themselves just a hair in terms of sound, but as a whole this is a wicked-fun shot of snarky rock that may have you wondering why it's stuck in your head.