It's funny how trends turn in terms of the cool becoming passé and the unspeakably lame becoming "the shit." For first-wave punks, guitar solos were as voguish as a Three's Company T-shirt; the ascendance of Meat Puppets and Dinosaur Jr. made nimble-fingered six-string aerobics stylish again. Generations of indie-rock aesthetes directed their most toxic contempt for the intricacies, excesses, and pretensions of progressive rock (alternately known as "art rock" or simply "prog") — Jethro Tull, post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd, and Camel were considered clowns, technique-over-passion relics. Now Sacramento, California's Hella threatens to endow prog with a hipness factor as high as that of prescient combos Velvet Underground, Monks, and the Stooges. In its distinctive fashion, Hella is just as scarily unpredictable as Boredoms or Mr. Bungle — coarse, shredding guitars drive angular melodic lines and dissonant progressions with feverish precision while Aaron Ross (the new fellow) puts across the words like a manic gene-splice spawn of the Fall's Mark E. Smith and David Byrne. Some would saddle Hella with the "math rock" tag, but they're less mathematical than geometrical. If ever there was a band to unite the fans of the Minutemen and Yes, to explore the overlap 'twixt Rush and Ruins, Hella is it.


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