Rhythm & Views

It Hugs Back

Like kittens playing in yarn, It Hugs Back, from Kent, England, revels in soft cuteness, causing any self-respecting male music writer to wonder (and perhaps worry) why he continues to spin the band's debut full-length.

Hilariously, the publicity notes cite the Lemonheads, Teenage Fanclub and My Bloody Valentine as touchstones, when, in fact, each of these acts would totally devour It Hugs Back's breakfast, lunch and dinner in terms of volume and aggression. On the other hand, Inside Your Guitar is certainly full of the kind of effortless pop hooks that alt-rock bands used to produce not so long ago. And once you hear the buoyant, jangly drive of "Back Down," you won't settle for much else.

The simple organ accompaniment provided by Jack Theedom is especially sweet on upbeat tracks like "Unaware," while vocalist/guitarist Matthew Simms delivers a delicate alto that falls somewhere between Josh Rouse and Neil Halstead. Lyrics seem to deal with failed or faltering relationships with troubled girls who maybe work at Urban Outfitters, but it's hard to tell, given how quiet the proceedings are.

When It Hugs Back finally cranks up the amplifiers on "Now + Again," you may already be asleep. That's fine, as long as you're cuddling someone fuzzy and adorable rather than a pierced punk chick. Then again, she probably wouldn't dig this stuff as much as you do, tough guy.

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