Twenty years ago, we were given the words grunge and alternative to describe rock music. In both genres, there were some pretty epic bands that took rock to new places. However, at the end of both runs, tons of terrible bands came along, followed formulas and made some forgettable music. But when bands resurface genres, the results can be a mixed bag. There’s hundreds of reasons why that is the case, but it’s better to just say that when a genre gets brought back where the formula isn’t followed, it’s the best way to hear it again. Los Angeles’ Ramonda Hammer is the first band to do just that. On their new album I Never Wanted Company, the four piece throws out any formulaic notions of how to make a grunge or alternative rock album and creates a masterpiece that stands on its own legs.
Here’s why this is the case. For starters, the songs are written and constructed in such a way that they don’t really sound like anyone current or before them. There are elements that remind you of other riffs or chords you’ve heard before, but there’s no straight lift by any means. Secondly, the vocalist can actually sing. It seems like a simple thing, but actually singing, screaming at times with what appears to be almost no vocal treatment is a rarity, especially today. Finally, the album is rife with emotional tones that the instruments hold. Bear in mind, this is employed by strange riffs or decisions in the songwriting that places moments out of place typically, yet they work immensely well here.
The opener, “You’re Invited” could be dismissed as a typical alt rock song until you dig in just beneath the surface. The vocals howl with emotion, the guitars play notes that aren’t typical and the drums and bass lines are placed in their own stride that makes them stand out more than usual. This is kind of how the whole album plays out. The emotionally charged vocals of “Hoax” get met with these guitar noodlings that seem to have come from somewhere else, yet they work oh so well. Even when the band changes tempo and takes the song to a new place doesn’t make it come off as anything other than original in how it plays out.
The way the drums pop and stay at the top of the mix on “Fake Thoughts” are masterfully done or the guitar heavy tones that wash over you on “A Dramatization” are only exemplified by the fact that the song is performed almost in the opposite manner in which every band since 1993 has performed an alternative rock band has. There’s a moment in the latter half of the song that shouldn’t be there because it’s so different, but because the song is written in such a different way, it makes the song stand out even more. The entire album is rife with originality and songs that have their own narrative in how they’re performed and how they’re written. The arrangements alone make for the case of going your own way as a band, while never following the herd. Ramonda Hammer has definitely figured out how to go their own way here. Without utilizing all of the pitfalls of writing hits, they give us searing rock on tracks like “Who’s The Narcissist?”and “Empathy,” while still giving us all of the hooks and emotions we can handle.
I Never Wanted Company is available to stream on all streaming sites, it can be purchased in all digital music outlets and it can be purchased physically directly from New Professor Music. Ramonda Hammer is on tour June 19 at The Space Concert Club in Salem, OR until June 29 at Amnesia in San Francisco, CA. A complete list of their upcoming performances can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Michael Haight.