Revisiting a Catchy, Well-Loved 90s Sound with the Hasbros at Otto’s

by delarue

The Hasbros play a scruffy, occasionally jangly, sometimes roaring style of powerpop and four-on-the-floor rock that sometimes brings to mind the Smithereens, Big Star, or Titus Andronicus without the Brooklyn wokester affectations. They’ve been around awhile. The four-piece lineup of frontman/guitarist Bob Hanophy, lead guitarist Ken O’Connor, bassist Tom Cavanaugh and drummer Joe Gorelick have a gig tomorrow night, Sept 2 at 11 PM at Otto’s. A surf band who call themselves the Hysterics open at 10.

The Hasbros’ most recent album Cart Before the Horse came out in 2018 and is streaming at Spotify. The opening number, For the Best sets the stage with a doo-wop catchiness over opaque Replacements changes. Throughout the record, there are unexpected touches, like a choogling Allman Brothers solo that pops up out of nowhere, a little swirly organ, moments of punkish riff-rock, Stoogoid snarl and a little Church spacerock.

Songs like Kenny bring to mind 90s nights at clubs like Brownies and Maxwell’s where flannel-shirted crowds would pack themselves in to see artists like Kevin Salem. Once in awhile the two guitars build toward a dreampop sheen, as Husker Du would do in their later years. Ever After Now, a bittersweet, swaying anthem, wouldn’t be out of place in the Son Volt catalog. Jackass, a brooding, glistening number, has a melodica blending wistfully into the guitars. The best song on the record is Later On, a gorgeously bittersweet portrait of alienation and missed connections. These guys really know their source material and will transport you to a better time and place before Facebook or ID scanners existed (Otto’s has one of the latter; bring your passport).