Rating:As the leader of debutante gay girl group ensemble Hunx and his Punx, the eponymous Hunx has managed to bring back an air of theatricality to the genre that was lacking in an era of too cool indie girls and their broken, brooding male counterparts. With gleefully melodramatic singles like “Lover’s Lane,” Hunx seemed to be aiming to put the fun back in longing, the teenage kicks back in heartbreak. But on his solo debut Hairdresser Blues, Hunx goes introspective, dialing back the edge in favor of confession and handwringing.
Hunx provides an intimate glimpse at this new direction with album opener “Your Love Is Here To Stay,” a power poppy ode to the comfort that comes from being in a long term relationship. Though the effect at first seems somewhat maudlin when paired with tracks like the follow-up “Private Room,” the intentional juxtaposition is clearer, as Hunx’s confessional moments gain new value and weight in the shadow of the deceptively happy, jauntier numbers. It brings an air of sadness to Hunx’s ’50s-inflected garage pop, leading to moments like “Always Forever,” which manages to sound like some time travel assisted collaboration between the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Undertones and the Shangri-Las.
But the music isn’t the only area where Hunx is dramatically pillaging the past. Stand out track “Do You Remember Being A Roller” has as its focus a remembrance of the simplicity of a time when you could devote yourself entirely to something as silly and addictive as the Bay City Rollers. Hunx even attempts to channel the likes of the Velvet Underground with album closer “When You’re Gone,” which gets excellent mileage out of a no-fuss beat and an efficiently simple guitar hook. Hairdresser Blues is at its most exciting in moments like these, where Hunx is stretching the boundaries of his aesthetic more than normal and not leaning on stylistic crutches.
But too often the album comes across as half-assed, with Hunx initially starting with an idea outside of his comfort zone before falling back on his safety net of a Phil Spector beat and multitracked vocals. “I’m Not The One You Were Looking For” is probably the clearest example of this, starting off as something almost twee with its thrift store organ and gently cooed vocals before devolving into an imminently forgettable bit of filler.
Hairdresser Blues is ultimately a little too weightless and ineffectual to be an honestly great album as a result, and it’s by no means strong enough to indicate that Hunx should shed his backing bands. But it does provide valuable insight into the developmental process and habits of its creator, encouraging reexaminations of his prior work in the new context and potentially acting as a palate cleanser before Hunx moves onto truly incredible things.