Ponce Records / Xeric
efore Hubcap City could hammer and nail its ad hoc skeleton together, Bill Taft was subverting conventional wisdom with Smoke, a vaudevillian chamber outfit fronted by gay poet Benjamin [née Robert Dickerson]. With Smoke, Taft clawed banjo strings and breathed brightly into his cornet, punctuating meandering lyrics that waxed poetic on such disparate fixations as Luke Perry’s feet and an Atlanta pizza mogul. The sparseness and fragility of Taft’s instrumental contributions embodied a childlike beauty and auto-didacticism often imitated with disastrous—and hilarious—results. Taft adds his voice to the list with Hubcap, showing a penchant for the sort of Larry-McMurtry-meets-trucker-speed lyrics that Benjamin was wont to spew.
Songs about luck gone awry, deer hunting in the city center, and bottles of bottomless booze are pawed together with sloppy, pawnshop guitar and percussion; Atlanta PD sirens soar through one of the tracks; backyard ambience softens another. Guitarist Matthew Proctor unconvincingly corrals chords together. Drummer Will Fratesi brushes around clattering chains and undulating singing saws. Taft yips and yells, his lyrics spat out in a sing-song more a talismanic chant than loose association of “found” verbiage. In toto, it all sounds like a street urchin wheeling his shopping cart down the boulevard, while his earthly possessions rain steadily over the sides.
Cover art is more of the same, invoking iconic Atlanta inner-city neighborhoods and grizzled capitol views, walls pocked with spray-painted tags and profanity. The silent message is resistance to change, even as the city that spawned Southern Gothic breakdowns attempts to create its own Frankenstein’s monster in the Left Coast’s image. Apparently Taft and the rest of Hubcap haven’t given up, jumped ship, or started to build their own ark—even as developers continue to entice suburban blahs into “ghetto livin’” with McMansions or coffee shops and “edgy” restaurants staffed by snotty fucks desperately trying to shake their folks’ bourgeois stain.
In some way, Hubcap has managed to remain intact through the transformation. For their resilience, they are charged with willing naïveté; for their musical indifference, they are doomed to be tagged with the dreaded free-folk moniker. They’re neither naïve, nor free, nor folk. If anything, Hubcap is the last bastion of what bona fide Atlanta music was ever all about: fervent originality, playful instrumentation, and an immeasurable desire to only perform a piece if you sure as hell goddamn meant it is gone. These qualities are alien; an otherness misunderstood and gawked at by eyes and ears grown on sticky candy-rock-and-slurpee song. Hubcap’s strangeness will likely endure, permeating designer air and proving incompatibility incontrovertibly, even as the band continues to sing about the city that falls all around them.