Hermano is no Supafuzz. Conversely, Supafuzz was no Hermano, even though both bands included guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom and drummer Chris Leathers. Supafuzz built a regional following in my area with their excellent 2000 release All About The Rock (which has been reviewed on this site). Their live CD Down For The Underground (also reviewed on this site) managed to capture the band's appeal while leaving fans begging for more. Their latest release Vertigo . . . I haven't heard.
Hermano, though, I have. Hooking up with vocalist John Garcia and bassist/guitarist Dandy Brown, each with their own impressive resume of previous musical endeavors, Angstrom and Leathers sound exceptional. In all, the material veers toward the stoner rock genre without getting sucked into the pitfalls of the genre. There are no 9:00 instrumental jams based upon the same riff, nor are there any blatant and stupid drug references, unless you count sex as a drug.
There are definite traces of the Supafuzz vibe. Opener "Cowboys Suck" has the same driving drumbeat of the Supafuzz material. But this review is not going to be a 1:1 comparison between Supafuzz, one of my favorite bands ever, and Hermano. Supafuzz is no longer a functioning unit. I tend to get frustrated with critics that compare a musician's former band with their current band. Try to find an Audioslave review that doesn't mention Rage Against The Machine or Soundgarden.
That said, Hermano is at times quite vulgar. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Focusing on two songs "Quite Fucked" and "Let's Get It On" show the effects of vulgarity in the band's material. Simply, Hermano got it all wrong with "Quite Fucked." The song drags into a mindless chant of "Go motherfucker motherfucker go" that has me wishing the motherfucker would listen and, well, go already. The song is painfully vulgar and the lyrics are stupid. Any garage band could have written a song with the chant in this song. It's as annoying as the chorus in the House of Pain tune "Jump Around." I routinely skip "QF" when spinning this CD.
Another track I skip is the stupid closer "Angry American." This song goes downhill almost immediately when it builds the bulk of the song with the following lyrics repeated: "Look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me, I'm the angry American." Yes, the subject in this song is an angry American and also incapble of writing a decent song about being angry.
However, when Hermano gets the stupid lyrics out of the way, they are lethal as a band. "Let's Get It On" stands out slightly more than the former. Consider the lyrics from outsider Aleah X, known for her vocal work with the band Devil May Care (which both Angstrom and Leathers are members of): "I've got you on my mind / I want to screw you blind . . . I try hard to be nice but you'll never fuck me twice." In this case, the vulgarity works towards the theme of the song. The lyrics are as vulgar as other tracks but just seem more intelligent. They aren't saying the F word because they have nothing better to say.
The low-key calm "Murder One" stands out with an acoustic guitar riff and handclaps that breaks up the driving rock drumbeats throughout the rest of the release. The guitar solo is soulful and thought-out. Another standout is second track "Life." Drummer Chris Leathers has a sensational style that incorporates cymbals, toms, and the snare into a hypnotic rhythm. The riff Angstrom plays in the verse follows the drum pattern until the chorus, when he introduces a new riff. All the while Garcia's vocal melody melts into the rhythms of the song.
I wanted to like Hermano more than I did. In the end, I found listening to Hermano a frustrating use of my time. There are glimpses of a fantastic band in some of this material. Then the next track should have hit the cutting room floor. I think the band needed an outsider to listen to the songs and ultimately say, "No. You don't really want to include "Quite Fucked" or "Angry American" because those songs are not as good as the rest as the others." Unfortunately, they didn't have that outsider around when they were putting the final touches on this release.