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The politics of dancing.

Ever since Disco Sucks! became punk’s call to arms in the 70s, the idea that disco is punk’s antithesis has been difficult to dispel. But that’s just one of many rules Out Hud screw up on their second album, Let Us Never Speak Of It Again. Yet while Out Hud’s dubbed-out disco is as far away from gobshite guitar rock as their new home in New York is from their native Sacramento, the spirit of punk burns more brightly in their incendiary grooves than in any of the damp squibs produced by people following punk’s rules to the letter.

“Punk is music for outsiders, but when you take that too far you become so elitist that you turn into what you hate,” opines Out Hud vocalist Phyllis Forbes. “The whole DIY ethic is still really inspirational, but there’s a lot of simplistic teenage angst in punk, and if I hadn’t got over that by now at 26, then when would I?”

“What we loved about people like PiL was the way they were unafraid to experiment,” adds cellist Molly Schnick. “We’ve never had any rules about what we do.”

For Let Us Never Speak Of It Again’ tears off the three-chord straitjacket of the California punk scene, where Out Hud cut their teeth, and throws some pretty weird shapes. A unique brew of Molly’s cello, Phyllis’ vocals, Nic Offer’s scuzzy synths and Tyler Pope’s grinding basslines, all mixed with a dash of dub by Justin Vandervolgen, it sounds much more confident than 2002’s S.T.R.E.E.T Dad. Out Hud ascribe this to the influences of their adopted home. Not just the house and hip-hop they hear on the streets but also that fact that, having fallen in with the likes of !!! and LCD Soundsystem (for whom Pope has just left Out Hud to join full-time), they’re now surrounded by fellow free-thinkers rather than petty purists.

“When we first started doing funkier stuff, people would just stare at us in horror,” Phyllis recalls. “We were like, ‘You’re supposed to dance motherf**kers!’”

“When I was going to punk gigs I loved the mosh-pit, but once I started listening to dance music and moving on the rhythm I found it really liberating,” says Molly. “What we play isn’t strictly punk anymore, although I don’t think that when I’m 40 I’ll still be playing dance music either. But whilst it sounds totally different they’re all on the same trajectory.”

But the politics of dancing aren’t the only ones to concern Out Hud of late. For if there’s one track that lays down their statement of intent it’s Dear Mr Bush, There Are Over 100 Words For Shit And Only One For Music, F**k You, Out Hud – a 10-minute dancefloor epic as sprawling as its title, but with a groove as straight-to-the-point as the sentiment.

“It’s simply saying, ‘Here’s what Bush has to offer the world – war and destruction – and here’s what we’re offering instead,’” Phyllis explains. “I think if Bush just went out and had fun then he wouldn’t be able to do what he does,” adds Molly. “When you’re dancing and don’t give a shit about what the world thinks of you it makes you a better person,” Phyllis believes. “That’s what Out Hud are about.” And they ain’t beating about the Bush.

Paul Clarke 18 March 05
Out Hud – Let Us Never Speak Of It Again, released 21 March 05 on !K7.
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