Home Read Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Hater | Hater

Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: Hater | Hater

The debut album from this Seattle garage-rock supergroup is so great.


For a few years there in the early-to-mid ’90s, I’d grab anything related to Soundgarden. The band came into my view around the time they played a triple bill at the former Porter Hall at Ottawa’s Carleton University with Faith No More and Voivod. I grabbed CDs of both Ultramega OK and the then-new album Louder Than Love — the single from which, Hands All Over, was in regular rotation on MuchMusic.

Both albums were loaded with thick, heavy, slow grunge-rock songs which wound up on numerous mix tapes and provided a soundtrack for our flirting-with-disaster high-school backroad trips. As young musicians we learned how to play Get On The Snake, and slipped it into our bar-band-for-hire repertoire, hoping nobody would notice it between all the Mustang Sallys and Downtown Came Uptowns.

Following Louder Than Love, bassist Hiro Yamamoto quit and eventually completed his masters in chemistry. His replacement, whom we were eager to scout, was Ben Shepherd. It took me years to discover Ben was a known commodity around Seattle. Like Yamamoto, he could also write songs (and sing!) and did so with Soundgarden. His first album with them was Badmotorfinger, the first single from which was the Shepherd co-write Jesus Christ Pose. It’s the only time I tuned in for the world premiere of a music video. It blew our minds.

I not only loved Soundgarden, but I was deep into Mudhoney, Nirvana, Tad and Melvins. I explored the offshoots and predecessors like Green River, Mother Love Bone, Wellwater Conspiracy and Temple Of The Dog. About the only band I really didn’t like was Pearl Jam. Still true.

But my favourite album from this community of rockers was the debut self-titled album by Hater. It was the side project of Shepherd and Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, who was basically our favourite drummer. The pair had been bandmates for three years by then, and started the garage-rock, Stooges-inspired Hater with ex-Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain. It’s so great, and my OG CD has long been damaged beyond use. So this summer I finally found a copy of the re-release on vinyl.

While I prefer this record over any standalone album by Soundgarden, I should point out a couple of weird things about me — I have never heard Hater’s only followup album, for some reason. And, I just realized Shepherd made one solo album under his one name in 2013, which I’ve also never heard. It seems pretty rare, given that copies on Discogs fetch $70 USD for the blue transparent wax or $100 on black (but it comes with a guitar pick!).

I digress. We’re here to review Hater (1993), so let’s do that.

Shepherd is one of Hater‘s THREE vocalists and one of two guitarists, the other being McBain (who plays lefty). Cameron handles drums/vocals while John Waterman is on bass and Brian Wood (brother of late Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood and Fire Ants guitarist Kevin Wood) also sings. I’m gonna be honest — I can’t tell you who is singing on any particular song even though I also own Cameron’s outstanding Cavedweller solo album.

Wood co-wrote three of the eight original songs. But the opening track is a Cat Stevens / Yusef Islam cover — one so good it sent me hunting for the original back in the day. Mona Bone Jakon is the title track of his third album. Both versions are actually great, but I prefer the Hater one — it’s so dry, cool and honest. No effects, just simple with simple dynamics and clear vocals. Cameron is an unbelievable drummer, but throughout this record he keeps it straight and easy (or deceptively easy) — exactly what’s required on a garage rock album. There are no face-melter guitar solos, no big-thumping endings. Jakon ends with two guitars feedbacking.

Who Do I Kill? is next, and right away you notice the songs were mixed individually, rather than all at once. These aren’t huge, multi-track arrangements but they are very effectively mixed — vocals and instruments panned nicely for stereo, and EQ’d so that they sound awesome at any volume. In the case of Who Do I Kill?, there’s a tambourine and vocal which are mixed left, the tambo shifting to centre for the chorus. The snare and a percussive acoustic guitar are weighted right with the kick drum at centre. It’s also a great rock song anyone would dig, with unpretentious vocals which are often buried in the mix.

Tot Finder has sick guitar tone, like Neil Young in fuzzy wet socks. Another great, simple rock song — particularly fun while driving, this one.

You won’t find ballads on this album, but what you do find is a gorgeous instrumental next — the dual-acoustic guitar Lion And Lamb. This could be a segue, but it holds nicely for two-and-a-half minutes. The decision to have an eerie Mellotron string pad low in the mix throughout is inspired.

If you love ’90s slacker-core vocals, you’ll love Roadside, which rounds out the first side. You could almost see this making its way onto a Soundgarden album, though considerably more glossy with soaring vocals. I like it better this way. But it is deliberately slow.

Flip the wax over and you get more of a banger. Down Undershoe finally shows off some of Cameron’s drumming chops. This one has such sparse vocals that it’s almost an instrumental. The band really nails the dynamics and I’ve always found this one quite evocative despite the near-total absence of a vocal melody, apart from the chorus. Perhaps my favourite from the album.

Circles is faster and riffy. Even boogie band fans would like this one. In keeping with the times and the style, the band offset the rock ’n’ roll accessibility of this number by sinking the dual, monotone vocals waist-deep in the mix. These two-lead-vocal songs are great, and it even has a deliberately unrehearsed guitar solo following a very tight bridge/instrumental break. It makes you want to jam.

Putrid is what T. Rex might sound like if Marc Bolan put out The Slider out in 1993. This one (like Roadside and Tot Finder) has Shepherd taking care of the music with Wood handling the words. The main refrain is “star lover.” So, yeah, pretty T. Rex.

The penultimate Blistered is kind of a novelty — countrified, with Muppet-like backing vocals. That is, until the ultra-slow and heavy outro/coda. The sound of musicians having a blast. Makes me happy. The outro aside, this song is a cover of a song by Billy Edd Wheeler. Never heard of him? I bet you’ve heard of some of his other songs made famous by bands not called Hater. Wheeler’s songbook includes Kenny RogersCoward Of The County and Johnny Cash’s Jackson.

The album closer is Sad McBain, which one assumes is somehow related to the band’s guitarist, who co-wrote this with Cameron (his only writing credit on the record). The song is kind of a throwaway — an ultra-grunge shambler with dismissive, in-joke reference-heavy lyrics and constant lead guitar.



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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.

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