WRITTEN BY: Ben Abrams
The warm sounds of vinyl records, lo-fi recording, and fuzzy guitar tones are staples of indie rock today, as many bands look for inspiration in the past. NE-HI’s new record Offers exhibits these traits with velocity and catchiness that gets the blood pumping. Hailing from Chicago, NE-HI have also been influenced by other bands from the city like Twin Peaks and Smith Westerns. Crushing heartbreak can be felt in both Jason Balla’s and Mikey Wells’ lyrics, and the pair work well in harmony. NE-HI keep the garage-made sounds of the past decades alive and well, injecting punk hooks and scrappy vocals into their songs to create a memorable listening experience.
Most of the songs on this album are written about troubled relationships. Whether it is a partner or a friend, the band’s two singers make it known that these people meant something to each of them. On the first track, “Palm of Hand,” a shimmering guitar lead is immediately presented to us. Bass, drums, and rhythm guitar slowly build to begin the verse, and already the lead guitar’s melody is stuck in your head. Balla’s vocals are also very powerful, and the “oh’s” and “ahh’s” from Wells in the background add another layer of smoothness to the track. The main riff is built on by the band as the song goes along but it inexplicably spirals back around to where it started by the end. This is the longest track on the album, at four and a half minutes, but is carried so well by the band that before you know it the song is over.
Moving ahead, the title track is a much more relaxed cut, with droning vocals and trudging chord progression. Balla sings, “Offers gone, no response” as the noise builds, slathered in reverb. This track has some obvious nods to The Clash especially within the chorus, where Balla imitates Joe Strummer’s signature guttural voice.
“Everybody Warned You” is the album’s centerpiece and my personal favorite. This song is more melancholy than the rest on the album and is something of a garage ballad. Another shining guitar lead delivers so much emotion in sound, and reminds me of the solo on Link Wray’s “Rumble,” with its bluesy descending notes. Wells sings of a friend who has squandered his life and opportunity, all for being opinionated and greedy. The cathartic tone of this track lends to its value and makes it the most moving piece the band has done so far.
NE-HI shows great consistency in quality and style on this album. They balance warm fuzzy rock tones and a lo-fi feel with high quality recording and precise performances. Offers is the bands best work to date, and shows promise for the future.
NE-HI’s music can be found on iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, and other streaming services. The band will be performing with Lithuania and Laser Background on March 28 at PhilaMOCA.