‘Drive Thru Communion,’ Brooks Hudgins’ Debut Album Reviewed
Brooks Hudgins’ songs seem to be conceived like little movies, they have an undeniable cinematic appeal, and they tell compelling personal stories. Or they give you an impression of authentic experience, wandering through genres, incorporating real-life tidbits, while being delivered with raucous to fervent vocals. Even though ‘Drive Thru Communion’ is his debut album, the 14-song collection is an impressive experience, occupying a very different niche than current stereotyped pop.
Born in Dallas but raised in Los Angeles, Hudgins discovered music during his teenage years in Hollywood, thanks to an early interest in guitar, alcohol, and prose, while trying to be a child actor in the shadow of the biggest and brightest celebrities. After attending a film school in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he learned more about music and clubbing than film, he started an early heavy techno DJ career, then settled in New York where the songwriting of his youth clicked with the influence of his college years. He wrote and recorded the 14 tracks of his albums in his stripped-down Bushwick basement studio, teaming up with classically trained violinist turned record producer Grant Gardner at Corner Store Studios in Ridgewood, NY.
The genre-bending album is an example of accomplished storytelling and songwriting, encompassing electronic, alt-country, bedroom pop, jazz brushes, and ambitious, always elaborated productions, inhabited by Hudgins’ smoky voice that provides the right touch for the film-noir vibe of the record. In spite of electronic productions, a large part is reserved for guitar, strings, while Hudgins’ charismatic vocals are at the center of ‘Drive Thru Communion.’
Some of the songs hit familiar spots: with its emotive violins, ‘Transatlantic’ is a slow country ballad as heartbreaking as an early Bright Eyes tune, and ‘1-800’ is a doo-wop-y teenage love song with a modern-lyrics twist. However, most of the songs are far less classifiable, and sonically more surprising. The smooth-as-a-ride ‘Only Fans’ is delivered with driving energy, and introduced with a monologue of a woman (Lola) swearing on the phone, while the song is described as ‘the coming of age story of a 21st-century girl and her struggles with the confluence of sex, drugs, and the internet.’ When the drums kick up, followed by the guitar, we are not sure of what is happening but immediately tangled in the complicated lives of people struggling with love, addiction – ‘shoot up me between toes and tell me you love me’ – and other modern life annoyance. From cameras in private chat rooms to ‘Gas Station Viagra’, the next song blends an unusual mix of hypnotic electronics with dynamic guitars and uptempo beats, while the atmospheric soundscape paints the background for a desperate story of college-educated stripper Lola, running from a landlord.
Plenty of songs navigate between gloom and humor, working like short bittersweet tales, sometimes delivered with a seductive urgency (‘Covergirl’) or dark despair (‘Mall Goth Jazz Club’ or ‘Salt Lick’), while Brooks Hudgins is always focusing on the narrative.
The irresistible and unbridled rocker ‘Covergirl’ is delivered with a no-boundary yearning and the most whiskey-soaked voice of the album. The breakup song ‘404 South’ cultivates a film noir miserabilism, kicking with keyboard, swirls of instrumentation then loud guitars,… ‘No second chance, no second chance’ Brooks Hudgins repeats, almost evoking the hopelessness of a song from the Eels, while the grave tone of ‘Force Majeure’ sounds like Leonard Cohen singing over an ethereal blend of shuffling Moby-esque electronica. ‘February’ takes a more jazzy-approach over bleak ambiance and emotive vocals before the immersive ‘Golden Arches’ and its alchemy of melancholic electronica, dry guitar, keys, and melodrama
For a debut album, ‘Drive Thru Communion’ offers the unexpected and plenty of brilliant moments through an omnipresent narrative lens. Brooks Hudgins is not afraid of sonic inconsistencies, unique pacing, and exploratory deviations supported by witty humor and his raw vocals. ‘Drive Thru Communion’ is out December 11th on Bodybag Records
Here is the tracklist. Check out the songs already available on Spotify
01. Only Fans
02. Gas Station Viagra
03. Mall Goth Jazz Club
04. Salt Lick
06. 405 South
07. Lost in Conversation
09. Force Majeure
12. Golden Arches