New York Knitting Factory

Sublime, stabbing psychedelia...

Sublime, stabbing psychedelia. Guitars that drone, drums that flutter. A strict all-black dress code. If [a]Hopewell[/a]’s defining characteristics sound familiar, there’s a very good reason. Lead by [a]Mercury Rev[/a]’s Jason and Justin Russo (bassist and keyboardist, respectively, in [a]Mercury Rev[/a] – guitarist and bassist, respectively, in [a]Hopewell[/a]), [a]Hopewell[/a] adhere pretty closely to the Rev‘s musical philosophy – all expanse and emotion, optimism tinged with the poison of weariness. Yet although they are retracing the same territory of their more successful parent band, Hopewell do so with a taut determination that puts their own efforts nearly on par with [a]Mercury Rev[/a]’s.

Much of what they play tonight shows the influence of the Rev’s ‘Boces’ and ‘Yerself Is Steam’ – both made before the Russo brothers joined the band’s ranks, resulting in a weird situation whereby their own music is indebted to the earlier work of a band with which they currently play. Make sense?

Still, [a]Hopewell[/a] aren’t mere facsimile. There’s another element -similar, yet distinctive. The visionary surrealism, the smothered pop sensibility – these are the earmarks of [a]Mercury Rev[/a]’s kindred spirits, The Flaming Lips.

Essentially, [a]Hopewell[/a] are a perfect hybrid of [a]Mercury Rev[/a]’s swollen-hearted sentiment and the Lips‘ light-hearted playfulness. There are moments of extreme grandiosity, crushing and immense, with billowing crescendos and flattening layers of feedback – but they are buffered by a sweet, off-kilter romanticism. [I]” I saw my first Indian today”[/I] Jason sings at one point, gazing wistfully at the ceiling. [a]Hopewell[/a] have located the spot where the personal and universal intersect, rendering each moment both introspective and transcendental – even the very long guitar-wig-out finale.

Afterwards, Jason Russo resolutely lights a cigarette just as a tannoy announcement is being made that there is no smoking permitted on the premises. It’s a tiny gesture of rebellion, a mute nod to individualism. He looks pleased with his efforts, and that so many people came to see him play. Hopewell may never achieve the monumental poignancy of ‘Deserter’s Songs’, nor dedicate themselves to an experimental [I]tour de force[/I] like ‘The Soft Bulletin’, but no doubt they will be out there, toiling in the shadows of greater things, weaving their own very special magic.