Led by Isaac Vander Schuur, The Hat Madder have been carving out a niche of intricate prog-pop for years. While Hat Madder's sound is informed with the sensibilities of 90's era acts like Brainiac or Six Finger Satellite, "R0771N9 ON 7HE V1N3" marks a new maturity, not only in craft and sonics, but in wordplay and narrative.
The operatic nature of the arrangements on "R0771N9 ON 7HE V1N3" thickly veils the panic and regret that lies beneath. On "71MMY 74YL0R'5 H34D", Vander Schuur eulogizes the dead frontman of Dayton, Ohio's Brainiac while tamping down his own fears of mortality, and attempting to slay the dragons of anxiety and depression. These cold, hard facts of 21st century life are cloaked in fuzzy guitar hooks, warm synthesizers and clever wordplay that allow just enough room for the truth to rear its' ugly head very so often
While Vander Schuur is clearly the ring leader for The Hat Madder, the guitar/keyboard work of Chris Baratono and Nick Merz works so brilliantly within these songs that they seem a sort of musical Hydra on which to project Vander Schuur's sonic ethos. All the while, Jared Talcott and John Miller form a cracker jack rhythm section that centers an auditory endeavor that could easily slide off the rails into noodling oblivion.
Death surrounds "R0771N9 ON 7HE V1N3". From the grave taunting in "L1K3 4PP4R1T10N5" to references of necromancers, nurses pushing morphine and black clouds, the specter of mortality is ever present. Magically, the prospect of oblivion is given wings that give the entire record a sense of wonder and even humor; as though chuckling in the face of annihilation will take away its' power and reach.
In a day and age of singles, streaming and withering attention spans, Vander Schuur and The Hat Madder have crafted a thoughtful, honest and intricate album that is most impactful when consumed in one full sitting. "R0771N9 ON 7HE V1N3" stands as a testament to the power of rock music, the catharsis of sound.