Hooded Fang’s name sounds a little less intimidating once you learn that it came from a sandwich sold in their hometown of Toronto. Even so, when the first quiet notes of bass and percussion enter at the beginning of Venus on Edge, they incite some kind of instinctual sense of impending danger in the listener. You know something big is coming.
And something big does come. What follows on the album—the band’s fourth since 2010—is an explosion of sound. Hooded Fang masters the art of driving, screeching guitar riffs, propulsive bass lines, and echoing, chant-like vocals. The four-member band, including twins April Aliermo (bassist/vocalist) and Daniel Lee (guitarist/vocalist), D. Alex Meeks (drummer), and Lane Halley (guitarist), has honed each part of the formula to noisy perfection, drawing comparisons to garage rock bands such as Thee Oh Sees.
The noise on Venus on Edge, though, is exactly what its title suggests: on edge, more agitated than aggressive. Throughout the album, the repetitive bass lines and high, yelping guitar parts create a manic push, as if they have to keep marching forward obsessively or else become unhinged. On “Tunnel Vision,” Hooded Fang sings of “[Stripping] the senses” and “[Sleeping] to drown / Inside that sound”; on this and other songs, they create the sensory overload and ensuing anxiety that they address. Instead of the raw vigor of garage rock, the music often reflects the darkly pulsing post-punk anxiety of Joy Division on songs such as “Plastic Love.”
“Plastic Love” also demonstrates another strain running against the album’s fuzzy tendencies: as Hooded Fang has insisted throughout their career, they strive to make pop. This is apparent in catchy choruses and upbeat tones on tracks such as “Dead Batter.” Most of the time, though, the pop sentiments are subtler, filtered through other musical archetypes like surf rock. But rather than the sunny music of The Beach Boys and Chuck Berry, their surf rock more closely follows how the genre has seeped into garage rock, or, on “Plastic Love” and “Vacant Light,” the way surf rock’s Middle Eastern influence, bright guitar, and frantic mood made its way into The Cure’s “Killing an Arab” and “Plastic Passion” (it's hard to imagine that the band’s nod to the latter song isn’t intentional on “Plastic Love”). Hooded Fang makes surf rock, but for jittery, pale people on beaches littered with roaches and empty whiskey nips.
Despite the jitteriness and fuzz, though, Hooded Fang never completely comes unhinged. They never lose their pop structures and vocal melodies—at least not until the final song, "Venus." In a song that includes the lyrics, "My body's underground" and, "My body is dead and gone / And this is now where I belong," the band buries the vocals in a repeated refrain with increasingly noisy guitar. It's one last perfect union of form and content, and after a nervy album about the stresses of the modern condition, Venus has finally fallen off the edge.