From bloody-good-music.blogspot.com on Hurry Up & Hang Around:
Blues Traveler has always been a band that lets their sound, travel, if you will. Along the winding path of their career, the one constant has been change. “Save His Soul” sounded nothing like “Four”, which sounded nothing like “Truth Be Told”, which sounded nothing like “Blow Up The Moon”. They have always been chasing something, but what exactly that is has always been nebulous. In the beginning, the strove for respect. Then they strove for the status they deserved. Then they strove to regain their place. And finally, they strove to make themselves happy. That leaves us with a string of records that hold together, but form a patchwork that draws your attention to a different area each time. And even when they are taking a detour that might not be your choice, there are always interesting twists that make it worth your while to take the ride with them.
With the band having reached a milestone of longevity, the question of how to commemorate that brings them back (nearly) full circle. While their last couple records have seen Blues Traveler injecting their sound with pop songwriters in the search for the perfect collaboration, “Hurry Up & Hang Around” finds them stripping back to the garage band they started out as. This is the most classically Blues Traveler album they have made, in approach, in many a year.
Our first taste of this chapter came from the opening track, “Accelerated Nation”, which came out of the gates in traditional Blues Traveler form. Sounding like a mix of all their eras, the song fused their classic sound with the polished writing of their modern work, giving us a song that fits the same mold “Most Precarious” did (and sadly never got credit for – that was a better single than it is remembered as).
Longtime fans will recognize bits and pieces that should evoke a smile, like how John Popper’s melody in the verses of “She Becomes My Way” stretches a syllable or two longer than anyone else would write it. Those are the details that I have always appreciated, both as a fan and as a songwriter. Every writer and every band has idiosyncrasies that pop up, which I think got too smoothed out with the amount of collaboration they had been doing lately. Even when they were writing great songs, like “Matador” was, they didn’t have those trademark elements. Hearing them again is a treat.
Another one pops up on “Daddy Went A Giggin'”, where Popper’s melody in the verses, and some of the feel of the instrumental, is somewhat pulled from his solo album, “Zygote” (the song “His Own Hands” in particular). The songwriting on this record is a throwback to the “Four” and “Straight On Til Morning” period, but more concise than they were back then. The band has been constantly trimming away the excess from their old tendencies, which leaves us with a lean record. Old fans might think there’s a looseness missing from the recordings, but it shows how their focus has shifted over the years towards sharp songwriting.
The thing about being a Blues Traveler fan is that we can argue over which of their experiments are our favorites. Some of us will love how gritty and heavy they got on “Bastardos!”, while others will appreciate the slickness of “Truth Be Told”. This one, though, feels like the right record for an anniversary period, because it is the one record since “Four” that best captures every side of the band.
Given how much the world has changed since “Run Around” and “Hook” were near the top of the charts, it’s a good decision that the band is no longer trying to chase a hit, and is instead writing music that is befitting of their status. There are clover hooks and strong melodies, but they integrate into the core of the band’s sound, rather than sounding like the token attempt to appeal to a demographic that no longer exists. Look, I love “Girl Inside My Head” and “Amber Awaits” too, but even then there no longer existed the proper outlet for them to become mainstream hits.
“Hurry Up & Hang Around” is a record made for Blues Traveler fans by the biggest fans of them all, the band. At this stage of their career, that’s exactly what most people want to hear. And listening to the results, I can’t argue. This record will make any Blues Traveler fan happy, and it will reset things so the next experiment is more welcome.