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Albums Of The Week: Hollis Brown | In The Aftermath

The NYC indie-rockers take a spirited romp through the Stones' killer fifth album.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Hollis Brown’s latest album In The Aftermath is the deliciously depraved outcome of an all-night rock ’n’ roll riot. The Queens quintet escaped to the Poconos to record with a few handles of whiskey, and, in one 24-hour session, ran down The Rolling Stones’ seminal first album of all originals, 1966’s Aftermath. Tracked live in the studio with minimal overdubs, In The Aftermath is potent proof that the group are one of the last great American rock ’n’ roll bands.

“It was a whirlwind recording session — we were on no sleep, and getting liquored up. You can definitely hear the looseness on that final track Going Home,” singer-guitarist Mike Montali recalls, laughing. “We weren’t focused on cleanliness — we were after a feeling.”

In The Aftermath is the second in a casual homage series. Previously, Hollis Brown issued Gets Loaded, saluting The Velvet Underground’s Loaded. In The Aftermath was an artistic inevitable for Hollis Brown. The five-piece band enjoyed doing the VU album so much they began to joke about doing a “Hollis Brown presents…” series, covering formative records in their artistic continuum. The impetus to do Aftermath came from an invitation to play a COVID-protocol obeying backyard party during the pandemic. The request stipulated the band perform a classic album of their choice.

Aftermath became the Stones album to dive into for a myriad of reasons. For one, it’s become something of a lost classic as it’s the first album to contain all Stones originals, including the defining track, Paint It Black. Also, many of the songs are concise ultra-catchy rock ’n’ roll rave-ups that mine similar blues and country roots to Hollis Brown’s own signature aesthetic. Another intriguing aspect is that it is an album made before Keith Richards switched to his signature open G tuning which has defined the Stones’ sound to the present. Since the songs aren’t tied to that very specific guitar approach, they become fair game to anyone bold enough try and cut the muster with the Stones.

Yet, on In The Aftermath, Hollis Brown don’t try to out-Stones the Stones. Instead, they find clever ways to salute the legacy. For the first album single, Under My Thumb, they distill the track down to a punky snarl inspired by the lean and mean Some Girls album. Hollis Brown turn in a faithful reading of Dontcha Bother Me, replete with Muddy Waters-approved slide guitar, seething vocals, and lonesome harmonica. The guys bravely tackle Paint It Black, and harness the ominous power of the track through swapping its classic, world-music perspective for a muscular guitar-rock approach. Here, the drums are essentialized down to an infectious garage-rock beat that perfectly aligns with the burly guitar riffage.

Other In The Aftermath highlights include Going Home, which boasts a long jam at the end where the guitars engage in Keith’s much-talked-about “weaving guitar” chemistry. High & Dry is a forgotten gem, and here Hollis Brown show an affinity for pastoral country jaunts, begging the question: What if the exiled Stones revisited their back catalog in that makeshift recording studio in Keith’s rented French villa?

“Making this record sent us back to the drawing board,” Montali reveals. “It was about going back to the essence of American roots music-blues and country-which is a tradition our band was founded upon.”

Hollis Brown formed in 2009 around best buds Montali and lead guitarist Jonathan Bonilla. The guys pinched the band name from the Bob Dylan song Ballad of Hollis Brown, and the moniker neatly epitomizes the group’s commitment to melding a signature Americana blend with fine songcraft. These days the band is rounded out by Andrew Zehnal (drums) and Chris Urriola (bass). To date, Hollis Brown have released an EP, three original albums, and the aforementioned tribute to Loaded.”