On paper, No Return is a great rock ’n’ roll record. The repetitive rhythm section is driving, the guitar tone is tolerable, and the vocals aren’t a total turn-off, something that can completely ruin an otherwise excellent album. Mark Biermann’s lead guitar work is actually pretty great, Jason Gettemy’s semi-Stooge-oid bass lines are effectively repetitive and work well with John Richardson’s simplistic drumming, but together these guys never supersede the sum of their parts.
The Hullmen don’t leave a positive lasting impression on many of these tracks. Biermann’s vocals are barely effected and his lyrics are slightly annoying, easily forgettable, and worst of all, seem forced. His voice lacks charisma and it’s not cold or robotic enough to come off as nonchalant. The vocals would definitely sound better buried further in the mix. Speaking of the mix, the overall feel of the record is weak and hollow. At times it seems like parts of the recording are missing as if there’s a third channel the listener should be hearing not coming through the left and right speakers. The mid-fi audio quality of No Return and the format (CD only) actually work against it. Ironically, a more lo-fi recording probably would’ve sounded better.
Apparently, The Hullmen feature a couple of members of Aluminum Knot Eye, but that’s barely worth mentioning as this recording shares little in common with underrated records like 2004’s Trunk Lunker. The Aluminum Knot Eye’s personality only rears it’s fucked-up head on the last track, an homage to “Berserker” (the Love Among Freaks song which you may recall from the Kevin Smith film, Clerks). Otherwise, Aluminum Knot Eye’s weirdness is sadly lacking here.
That said, all the parts of a great record are present on No Return. I bet a second generation cassette tape dub of these songs would sound pretty great, especially if you could somehow drown the vocals out a bit or at least drench ‘em in reverb. Also, I can imagine these guys being great live, under the right influence. I would’ve been stoked to see ‘em get wasted and open for Modey Lemon 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it’s 2012, this is a CD, and these guys sound a little too sober. [Self-Released]
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