You and Me
The push to recreate the buzz
Los Angeles based quartet Open Hand haven't had the easiest of runs in the music business since Justin Isham (vocals and guitar, and son of acclaimed music video director Wayne Isham) put the band together in 1999 with bassist Michael Anastasi and drummer Alex Rodriguez. It wasn't long until Open Hand had generated a buzz in the underground scene thanks to tours with Glassjaw, The Juliana Theory and Thursday and the release of two EPs on their own American Propaganda label, 1999's Radio Days and 2000's Evolutions. They were soon sold out and not long after that, they were being approached by major labels. The talks with the majors failed to produce a result. In 2002 however, they were picked up by acclaimed indie label Trustkill Records.
Two thousand and three saw the release of The Dream on Trustkill which comprised of the two EPs and a couple of new tracks. After a European tour with Poison The Well, things took a downward turn for the band when their guitarist and bassist quit which left Isham and Rodriguez with no choice but to put the band on hiatus. Soon after, Rodriguez left to join the more active Saosin. More motivated the ever before, Isham joined up with long time pal Paxton Pryor (drums) who eventually left The Vacation to join Open Hand full time. The pair wrote and recorded You And Me before re-teaming with original bassist Michael Anastasi and onetime guitarist Sean Woods to complete the line-up.
Finally, their long awaited album You And Me has seen the light of day. For fans that have been around since the early days, the release of a long player may have felt like it would never eventuate. Those who struggle to come to terms with a band that changes its style in any way no matter how big or small that may be, well be prepared to be struggle a little bit. It's been a while between drinks for the band and they've kinda reinvented themselves. You And Me is chock full of biting riffs, catchy vocals and a damn solid mix of stoner, indie rock, pop, and hardcore throughout that at the same times, allows the band to explore different avenues musically whilst not losing their identity. It's not too much of a departure from their earlier work. If anything, time has allowed them to refine their style and to define who they are musically.
Pure Concentrated Evil opens the album with a kick that hints at a fast and furious ride for the rest of the 41 minute album. However when Her Song begins, the ride begins to show the sort of variety that lies ahead with its simple and soothing groove. Tough Girl is the first of several tracks here that can stand up against the hooks of bands like the Foo Fighters and Queens Of The StoneAge. It's catchy, effective and just damn good and Isham's vocals are fantastic. Some songs are straight up radio friendly in the same way that the aforementioned Foo Fighters and Queens are radio friendly, but tracks such as the sludge laden The Ambush and the textured Newspeak certainly wouldn't get much attention from the airwaves. That's not to say that the songs aren't good. They are good, just not radio songs that's all.
It's a shame that the buzz generated from their early releases was subjected to quite a beating over the last couple of years with the line-up changes and premature major label pressure. Given a fair chance and enough of a push, You And Me should be enough for Open Hand to generate that same kind of buzz and momentum again which is definitely better late than never.