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[Review] Melt-Banana: “Return of 13 Hedgehogs”

Melt-Banana - Return of 13 Hedgehogs

When you’re an independent punk-ish band that’s been around for 20+ years, a long catalog of splits and singles are amassed over time… especially when a lot of your early catalog features songs that clocked in at an average of 90 seconds. Over their long career, Melt-Banana has entranced (and confused) many an ear, and ahead of their upcoming, two-part North American tour comes their second compilation album, Return of 13 Hedgehogs. Amassed from non-album singles and splits recorded/released from 2000 – 2009, Return of 13 Hedgehogs serves as a fitting swan song to the band’s illustrious past.

As alluded to, Return of 13 Hedgehogs is Melt-Banana‘s sophomore compilation album with the name derived from the band’s penchant of calling their singles “hedgehogs.” The singles were recorded during a decade in which the band went from a lo-fi grindcore style (Teeny Shiny) to their first foray into a hi-fi, increasingly techno/pop sound (Cell-Scape) to a near-complete transition to their style of pop (Bambi’s Dilemma) to the band’s unofficial live debut as a duo experimenting with synthesizers and samples (Melt-Banana Lite Live Ver 0.0). As can be imagined, Return of 13 Hedgehogs reflects all of these stylistic changes across the album’s 29 songs. What’s more interesting are the band’s songs that were featured on splits with other bands of varying styles ranging from the ska-punk style of Big D and the Kids Table to notable noisecore band The Locust, to name just a couple.

Melt-Banana is a very unique band, and this couldn’t be expressed more clearly than by some of the covers they recorded, such as a tantalizing take on Italian singer Mina’s “Tantarella Di Luna,” ska standard “Monkey Man” by Toots and the Maytals, goth punk The Damned’s “Love Song,” and Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge.” If 2013’s fetch represents Melt-Banana’s future, Return of 13 Hedgehogs is the perfect bookend to their past.

Geoff Henao is a writer/kinda photographer affiliated with the Chicago collective LOD. His interests include film, punk rock, cute girls, graphic novels, video games, and the Chicago Bulls. He’s funny sometimes.

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