Home > TheRest > The Hissyfits – Letters From Frank

The Hissyfits – Letters From Frank

Top Quality Rock and Roll, 2001

The cover of this record looks like someone had a heck of a time with their typewriter.  All the duplication of letters and even the inclusion of a star key seems to indicate that the person was all sorts of ticked off as to why their typewriter was giving them issues when they just wanted to type the name of the band.  That ‘h’ key looks like it particularly got sticky and the user was just mashing it repeatedly.  I do the same thing with Control-Alt-Delete on days when I have had enough of frozen windows and buggy software.  Wham! Wham! Wham!  So needless to say, I identified a little bit with the cover art as well as the thought that a band called the Hissyfits was probably going to be a good rock ‘n roll time.  So I picked the album up.  I figured I owed the frustrated typewriter guy that much.

The Hissyfits are a three piece, all lady band that specializes in punky pop rock.  Given that the three, full-square headshots of the ladies show them all to be smiling kind of makes sense with that kind of genre, since all the grrl and hard rock girls tend to grimace and look like they don’t want you talking to them.  Although the Hissyfits might have made themselves a little typecast, what they do defy are the conventional song lengths of pop rock.  Some of these songs usually stick around for three and a half minutes!  Either the band wants the listener to pay some attention to their valued lyrics or the band likes to pull a freebird with some instrumental dabbling.

The early songs on the album fulfill what I figured the Hissyfits were all about.  The opener of “Something Wrong 2001” isn’t a particularly strong track, with some room temperature rock tempo and a some very timid vocals, but it fits that cute energy the band was giving off from its cover.  “Baby” sounds a little better with the light vocals from the main singer (I’m assuming of the three vocalists, it’s the one who goes by ‘Princess’ aka guitarist Holly Jacobs), though the tune warms up with a sort of sixties-sounding duet exchange early on.  “Superstar” seems to continue where “Something Wrong 2001” left off, and though it has some pretty harmonizing over the power riffs, I’m still waiting for the stand out track.  Unfortunately, the songs are starting to get longer …

When looking over the time stamps of the songs beforehand, tracks that I was weary of listening to were “So Sweet”, “Bloodsugarsister”, and “Giant Ants” since they all lasted longer than four and a half minutes.  I thought oh man, what kind of pop rock song lasts that long and retains its interest?  Well, it’s a mixed bag.  I think “Oh Sweet” is actually one of the stronger songs on the record with its grim, urgent tone and uncharacteristic seriousness from the Hissyfits vocalists.  The build up and chorus sound engaging, though at about three minutes one could easily argue that the song begins to overextend itself.  When the guitar takes over and the chorus repeats itself periodically without anything new, a casual fan of the song could begin to edge that finger closer to the skip button.

Unfortunately, the other two tracks don’t fare as well.  “Bloodsugarsister” starts off really slow with some really light vocals, yet thankfully picks up after about a minute and a half.  The song itself isn’t all that interesting to wait out the rest of it.  “Giant Ants” suffers from a chugging riff that just goes on and on while one of the singers ‘raps’ about Bruce Lee.  It is apparent she’s been labeled a vocalist so as to fit in, but really, it may be because the band is still trying to figure out who in the group can actually sing.  You either have the rapper girl who can’t sing, the very light vocalist who sometimes is overdone by the rockin’ raucaus, and the incognito vocalist who seems to prefer to stay in the background.  Despite all the noise going on, it’s the vocalists as well as the over-extension of the song that makes it forgettable.  The Hissyfits just do better when the songs don’t require a marathon length.

Speaking of short songs, I think one of the better tracks on the disc is the thrashing “Lock ‘N Load” that nearly ends the album.  It completely stands out as some kind of lark by the band given that nothing else matches its tempo, but it probably fits the band’s namesake most accurately.  The band quickly moves on back to its usual slower speed with “Today is the Day”, though this time Jacobs’ vocals are all fuzzed out.  It certainly gives it a nice summer feeling, especially with some summer thoughts-inducing hand claps included.  The song ends up as a nicely calming ending to a somewhat confusing album.  Oh by the way, the song is nearly five minutes long.

If you must hear some pop rock by three or so women *right now*, well, have a listen at Last.fm.  (Edit:  Unfortunately, their old website is down as of 2013.)

The Hissyfits have gone through quite a few lineup changes in their time, though the lead guitarist Holly Jacobs has been the consistent element.  Either way, the band hasn’t put out a record since this one and, though the band toured for a few years afterward it unfortunately looks like the Hissyfits have thrown their last tantrum.  As promising as the Hissyfits looked when I picked up this record I can’t say it fulfilling delivered, though I would have been interested to see what the group put out next to see if they got a little more exciting.  As it is, the Hissyfits left some fun untapped on the floor amidst the toy wreckage.

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