“2 Young 2 Die”, the first song on Minnesota indie rock band Hippo Campus’ LP3 is, in a word, safe. Milquetoast might be a more appropriate word. Boring would be an even better word. Sadly, the studio gimmickry slathered onto just about every moment of the torturous thirty-plus minute horror show that is Hippo Campus’ third album was maybe interesting the first time it was employed by any number of blog rock bands circa 2005, but in 2022 these now banal production contrivances sound hackneyed and cheap.
Moving beyond LP3’s tedious opening number finds us being painfully dragged through “Blew Its”, a song that overuses stilted static and intentionally overmodulated vocals with lyrics like, “cold weather, keep it in the cabinet, if you wanna try to fuck shit up, goddamn, it’s a cold affection,” … right. “Ashtray” may be the most anger-inducing moment on LP3’s first half, however, as the song shifts tormentingly from the band’s blasé attempt at rudimentary funk to something resembling regurgitated smooth jazz played at double the speed.
This brings us to “Semi Pro”. Imagine a song used during a montage depicting college life in some awful teen drama series from the early 2000s and you’ll have a decent idea of what this sounds like. Need I say more? Didn’t think so. Thank heavens this is LP3’s halfway point. Surely things will improve during the album’s second half, right? Wrong! “Ride or Die” is a cloyingly bouncy number that sounds exactly like the kind of unimaginative drivel the most annoying person in your British Literature study group would sing to you a cappella after offering to walk you to class. Don’t believe me? Try this on for size: “If you wanna go and get high for my love, make you cry for my love, like you said you knew me.” How embarrassing.
“Boys” is LP3’s penultimate track (thank Christ), and it’s also the record’s most tolerable. And, no, it’s not because it’s the album’s shortest, wise guy! How dare you? It does include the least amount of studio stunt work, however, and that certainly seems to help. It’s also LP3’s most straightforward in terms of song structure, and perhaps that’s what puts it in a more favorable light when compared to its overproduced neighbors. At long last we arrive at “Understand”, a ballad of sorts that does include some lovely lead guitar work amidst a pretty electric piano that sounds like something you’d hear on seventies AM radio. By this point, it’s difficult to say whether its easy to be complimentary toward this song because it’s a genuinely decent moment or because the punishment of having to endure LP3 is finally over.
Hippo Campus is by no means a bad band. There’s a reason these guys are considered one of NPR’s favorites. You might say Hippo Campus is an NPR band, meaning their music is unadventurous and easy to comprehend. Also, you can’t blame the members of Hippo Campus for the terrible production choices. The terrible production choices should be blamed squarely on LP3’s producer, Caleb Hinz. Look, it’s your time. If you want to spend it listening to pedestrian dross, have at it. If, however, you’ve advanced beyond the derivations of two decades ago, you’d be advised to listen to just about anything else.