When Koufax released Social Life in 2002, they immediately became one of my favorite bands. Their cynical and literate lyrics, mixed with classic (but not “vintage”) piano-led pop songs made it extremely hard for me to stop playing the record but Social Lifelacked that something extra. It’s pretty cliché thing to say, but it’s true; Koufax was just a step away from being one of the best bands making music today. And then I didn’t hear from them after a couple of years. I figured they broke up, a major drag. Then one lovely afternoon, I was bored and driving around on the information super-highway, and I come across an advertisement banner for this very release, Hard Times Are In Fashion. Cue unabashed excitement that I haven’t gotten from a record in quite a while.

So after many, many repeated listens, I am left with this conclusion: this record is almost the best record I have ever heard. Koufax did everything a band needs to do in order to improve from record to record. The songwriting is improved and subjects varied, they built upon their “sound”, while not alienating fans, and the musicianship is much tighter than on Social Life. However, a few mediocre songs make this record just short of absolutely brilliant.

The most prevalent element of Hard Times Are In Fashion that will stay with the listener well after the record is finished, is the political commentary of Koufax. While this will turn off some people, Koufax provide political songs in a different fashion (pun very much intended). Rather then participate in sloganeering, like Rage Against The Machine or Anti-Flag, Koufax displays how the Bush administration has affected their lives, as well as other Americans, in their everyday lives. “Color Us Canadian” and “Back and Forth” deal with the growing rift between America and the rest of the world. “Blind Faith” is by far the best political song of recent times. It is pretty much impossible to pick a line from this song to showcase how well written “Blind Faith” is; it’s just a song that you need to hear.

Other songs such as “Isabelle” and, the extremely creepy “Stephen James,” showcase the character study songs that Koufax writes extremely well. “Isabelle” is focused on a girl who moves out to L.A. to be, go figure, a movie star. However, she gets stuck as a waitress, who picks up a coke habit as she is sucked up in the social scene. Bummer. “Stephen James” is about a quiet, just barely unnoticeable neighbor; who has done something unspeakable, causing “two larger men” to tell, presumably, Koufax that they have 13 hours to get out of town.

I could go on and on about the absolutely perfect “Trouble Will Find You,” or even how good the light-hearted “Five Years of Madness” is or even how remarkably catchy “A Sad Man’s Face“ is- but I don’t want to gush too much. Make sure this is the next record you hear. It’s better than whatever you’re listening to.

(Doghouse Records)

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