After almost five years, The Hypochondriacs share their sophomore album, Waitin’.
It’s been a long time since we have heard new music from The Hypochondriacs. And a lot has happened since the band released its debut In 3/4, back in 2017. So much so, The Hypos of today bear little resemblance to the band we first encountered way back when.
But it’s not like this evolution happened overnight. Even though it’s been several years between albums, The Hypochondriacs haven’t exactly been sitting around waitin’ for something to happen. Far from it. In that time, the band have coalesced into a meritorious some-of-all-parts ensemble, fully embracing their undeniable collective charisma to become one of the best live bands around.
Over the years the group have grown away from the country music big band sound that helped them establish their initial audience following the release of their debut album. But that throwback appeal remains though having shifted significantly from Nashville to Memphis. It’s a drive you could do in three and a half hours, but to get there as a band, sonically and honestly, it’s a multi-year endeavour.
Which brings us to The Hypos of 2022, a venerable powerhouse of roots rock n roll and first wave rhythm and blues, back with their first album in way too long. Waitin’ shines, brightly. As a collection of songs, each of these nine tracks rely on the individual strength of the entire band to make them work. No one’s just along for the ride here. The songs are varied in rhythm, composition and dynamic range showcasing the many benefits time has provided these six musicians.
If you haven’t caught the band live over the past many years the first half of this record may catch you off guard. The swagger is dominant. The hip shaking, undeniable. The opening title track, released as a single last month, and the three songs that follow are drenched in doowop goodness, old time rock n roll, and staggering musical prowess with arrangements that serve the group’s strengths in ideal fashion. The harmonies are big, the horns bigger, the guitar tone on point, with energy to the max.
In some ways, the album is practically a mirror image of the band’s debut, but with the influences flipped. If the Hypos of 2017 were a country band trying to explore their love for R&B, the Hypos of today could easily be considered an R&B band built upon a love for country music and rock n roll in their earliest forms. Last Night, the unforgettable doowop outlier from the band’s debut, forms the basis for much of the album’s first half. Full on, crooning love songs that will make you cry tears of happiness and move in ways you didn’t know you could, would, or should.
Waitin’ is full of big, impactful choruses, supercharged by layered harmonies and rock-tinged big band complexity. The album is sequenced in such a way that its R&B depth, its Stax Records lover’s appeal, and its embodiment of high performance Memphis soul confidently defines the first four of these nine songs, providing the template through which the following songs are interpreted.
The shift happens with Chunky Dunk, the halfway marker and the place where the band readys its listeners for a distinct change in format. An instrumental, clocking in under two minutes, Chunky Dunk feels a bit like a closing number. The kind of James-Brown-Has-Left-The-Building moment where the band goes off like never before to entice the inevitable regrouping that starts the second half of the show. And that’s exactly the purpose it serves here, leading listeners into a playful second half that borrows from the group’s past without ceasing to move in new directions. Bookended by two distinct odes to the groups’ country origins, Highway #2 and Gospel are the type of character-driven story songs that command a strong attention to the narrative, while Alone and Friends reinforce the group’s strength as a multi-musician force of nature.
Often, when we talk about a band’s evolution, we’re referring to the pursuit of new sounds, to new translations of the status quo that push music into new territory and open new doors for others to follow. But in the case of The Hypos, this evolution takes us back to the beginnings of everything we know. Back to where it all started – this music we hold so close to our hearts. And let’s face it, it’s always good to come home.
Band photo by Kyle Albright.