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by Ryan Snyder

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HAMMER NO MORE THE FINGERS — Black Shark

Only a few tracks into Hammer No More the Finger’s second full-length album Black Shark, you could reasonably sum up what the Durham power-pop trio is all about with a close examination of the opening riff. It’s sprightly, agreeable, in a brisk time signature and ultimately a bit unremarkable compared to their debut Looking for Bruce. You have to appreciate the sincerity of the ’90s indie resurrectionists, but “Atlas of an Eye” and “The Agency” explores little that wasn’t dissertated already. They even name-check Looking for Bruce repeatedly in the latter’s hook. Then, just when you think you have the band figured out, they quiet the clamor midway through “Leroy” and “Thunder n’ Rain,” and in floats a bed of strings that punctuates the band’s ability to write sticky lyrical hooks better than a clatter of drums or charmed guitar riffs ever could. Hammer No More the Fingers could still fit both of their LPs snugly into an hour-long live set, but Black Shark doesn’t quite feel like the race to the finish line that Looking for Bruce was. Whereas they might have gone head-first into the shout-along chorus on a song like “The Visitor,” here they take a deliberate approach to their release points. Their upbeat tenor remains, however, even when the disenchanted imagery evoked by the lyrical content suggests otherwise. Still, a marked change in direction aside, Hammer No More the Fingers may never bowl you over with innovation. The golden era of bands that inform the music of HNMTF isn’t yet far off enough to evoke nostalgia, but verse-chorus-verse with big hooks and good songwriting like on Black Shark will never go out of style.

75/100

Hammer No More the Fingers will perform at Legitimate Business Thursday and at the Garage on Friday.

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