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Hobosexual is the musical version of smashing your action figures together

Better than the '80s

Seattle band Hobosexual manages to get a lot out of a little. Photo credit: Jason Tang

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Much has been made of Hobosexual's appropriation and interpretation of - not the ‘80s - but the idea of the ‘80s. As evidenced on their most recent LP (titled Hobosexual II, in a spot-on sendup of the oblivious self-aggrandizement that plagued mainstream rock of the ‘70s and ‘80s), this is the kind of band that may not have existed in real life, but possibly in the minds of teenagers leading desperately aimless suburban lives. Though they're just a duo of guitar and drums, Hobosexual possesses the expansive sounds of the most ludicrous arena butt-rock.

"There was a director named George P. Cosmatos, back in the ‘80s," says guitarist Ben Harwood. "He did a lot of super stylized action and drama films, like First Blood Part II, Leviathan and Cobra. He was always known for doing these over-the-top movies that were very representative of the era. His son, Panos Cosmatos, recently did a film called Beyond the Black Rainbow, which was sort of a commentary on the very idea of what the ‘80s were, and what it was like to work with his dad, but not the literal definition of the ‘80s. I had the same outlook as Panos, because I wasn't quite old enough to understand the ‘80s, but I have these memories of VHS boxes, Saturday morning cartoons and cereal box artwork."

Together with Jeff Silva on drums, Hobosexual gets down to exploring this murky half-memory of the ‘80s, as it might have appeared to a kid who stared at a Heavy Metal LaserDisc cover for too long. They especially nail the shallow, junky futurism of dumb rock concept albums. Every robot is for fucking or fighting (both scenarios are conveyed on "A Motherf#%kin' Song About Robots," appropriately enough). Songs such as "Mechagodmothra" and "Sex Destroyer" are the aural equivalent of slamming your action figures together or undressing your sister's Barbie dolls.

As I mentioned, Hobosexual are able to do a whole hell of a lot with very little, posing like an overwhelmingly huge production with only a two-piece to conjure up that blistering rock magic. It's easy to picture Harwood being slung through the audience on a dangerous Spinal Tap wire contraption, but it's all smoke and mirrors, and damn fine musicianship.

"(Being a two-piece) was actually a decision made out of economy," says Harwood. "Jeff and I had worked in previous bands, together, and we always had problems with guitar players and bassists flaking out or quitting. So, we just wrangled it all in and came up with this setup that we have for being a band, and it works. We've worked a lot on it. We've definitely taken some cues from bands like Local H, who do a very similar thing. We're always trying to build on that, to be a two-piece that sounds more like a four-piece."

Despite how I may have made Hobosexual sound, they're not a lame, comedy pastiche of ‘80s tropes like Steel Panther and the like. Songs like the slick, sexy "The Black Camaro Death" show off their range without giving up their retro vibe - in this case, they just move laterally to the sort of dark, heavy blues song that might land itself in the middle of any ‘80s "serious" sophomore album. "Bums of 2071" and "Mechagodmothra," even with their silly titles, are straight-up headbanging monoliths.

My dad always used to complain that the covers of trashy fantasy novels were always better than the actual stories within. Hobosexual is what would happen if those kickass ‘80s album covers came to life and roamed the record store at night, before heading out the door and stopping off at the Viper Room.

HOBOSEXUAL, w/Ancient Warlocks, Mos Generator, Infinite Flux, 9 p.m., Saturday, April 26, The New Frontier Lounge, 301 E. 25th St, Tacoma, cover tba, 253.572.4020

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