Not much of Title Fight’s third album, Hyperview, will sit particularly well with fans of shoegaze. While it’s true that the band is (was) a traditional punk group, they seem to want to break into a different sphere of guitar-focused noise rock. Add a few dream-pop riffs, wobbly rhythm solos and sprightly bass sections and you get Hyperview, more or less – a sort of synthetic drawl that blends punk with post-punk in attempt to arrive at shoegaze.
Unfortunately, Title Fight’s method is flawed. Whereas shoegaze requires overt precision and coordination, post-punk demands a more loose and sloppy edge, and the band seems to think that, with enough of the latter, the former might be achieved.
Bassist Ned Russin spoke for the band to Alternative Press in early December, saying about the record, “We were looking at bands like Dinosaur Jr. and The Beach Boys. We were looking at the moment where they found something that had never been done before and was now being done well. We were just chasing that energy.” What’s interesting about this statement, and especially about the band’s approach in general, is that they’ve drawn direct comparisons to Ride, Chapterhouse and Joyce Manor, Mazzy Star, Lush and all the dreamier bands in between. Title Fight isn’t creating new forms so much as it is stitching together older, more disparate ones. Hyperview is an enjoyable and highly-digestible combination of dream-pop, punk and post-punk – but, at the end of the day, that’s all it really adds up to.
By being so actively conscientious about genre while making the album, Title Fight has indirectly rejected genre all together, and this is the paradoxical and most troubling part of the record. Evidence lies in their signing to a new label, ANTI-, an inclusive compendium of genres and styles. Consider for a second that Hyperview was financed and sponsored by the same people who finance and sponsor the reggae music of Michael Franti.
Just as well, producer Will Yip has spent most of his eight-year career at the soundboard as a recording engineer and mix man. Good production requires vision and an unbiased (but devoted) perspective. However, much of the record’s lack of color can be traced to its visionless sprawl. If the scapegoat here is, in fact, Yip’s production, then Title Fight can chalk this record up as a sort of half-win.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Hyperview begins with “Murder Your Memory,” a solid trance-rock homage to something Slowdive might’ve produced on Souvlaki; something in the vein of shoegaze, but still not quite self-aware enough to be necessarily ethereal. Lead vocalist Jamie Rhoden whispers, “Murder all your memories,” before a wash of faux slide-guitar snatches the melody away. Before you can register exactly what it is you’re listening to, “Chlorine” begins and slightly alters course. It’s a light recapitulation of some of shoegaze’s more notable characteristics: bass colliding with percussion, guitars dripping metallic tone after metallic tone from their electric wailing.
Sadly, after “Murder Your Mystery” and “Chlorine” the record loses sight of what it wants to be. The indecision on the back half of Side One spills over onto the front half of Side Two, and it isn’t until “Liar’s Love,” when the band re-addresses shoegaze-like dream-pop, that they finally get back on the rails. Hyperview’s most pointed and perhaps most successful endeavor is “Dizzy,” a four-and-a-half minute escapade across the ocean in a flimsy life raft. It approaches, but doesn’t quite produce the sound of shoegaze: the eye of the hurricane, the fleck of sunlight from behind snow clouds, the kindred warmness you somehow feel with heartache.
These few moments of illumination fail to support the rest of the record, which sinks in too many places and deflates when prodded with the least bit of emotion. A lyric in “Chlorine” describes it best: “Hollow / You can’t hold it in / Pour out / All your emptiness.” Substitute “try to” with “can’t” and you’ve got Hyperview to a T.