"Blank Test" - Smothered In Hugs
So listen to that opening melody (beginning at 0:15), remove the primal drumbeat, and think about what this sounds like: it's not merely based on the standard I-IV-V chord progression, but it's rooted in an early-rock setting of that progression--three successive ascending notes, each a whole interval apart, each accompanied, in order, by one of those I-IV-V chords. The verse of the hugely popular and evocative song "All I Have To Do Is Dream" uses this exact pattern, in a swaying, Everly Brothers soundscape, but this was hardly the only example. Enough other doo-wop era songs grounded themselves in this simple structure for it to carry forever an ineffable air of bygone times about it.
Which is what, to me, helps make "Blank Test" so satisfying, somehow: it manages to conjure the past while presenting the melody in not one but two contemporary frames--the opening, percussive section and then the sped-up version (first heard at 1:23), after the song's prominent tempo change. Interestingly, it was this second, faster version that first sounded most nostalgic, maybe because there was kind of a double-nostalgia at work, this speedier section likewise echoing the late '70s via the Ramones and Blondie, bands which also mined '50s and early '60s melodies and chord progressions for use in their faster and harder-rocking compositions.
Smothered In Hugs (named after a Guided By Voices song) is a quintet from the picturesque and music-laced island of Prince Edward, way out there in the Atlantic Time Zone. "Blank Test" is the lead track on the album The Healing Power of Injury, set for release next month on Collagen Rock Records, a local collective that Smothered in Hugs has established with three other bands from the Maritimes.