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By Johnny Angel

Clipped Wings:
Don't need a weatherman to know which way the Hooties blow

I went into this week's column attempting the impossible. I was gonna take the side of Hootie and the Blowfish. I've been getting really sick of the idea that this inoffensive, marginal band is equal to virtual monstrousness and evil. Mention the band's name to alties and they either titter or curse, as if Hootie is synonymous with Hitler and "Blowfish" is code for bubonic plague. Hell, this is a simple pop quartet, folks--not a band of despotic brigands out to murder and rape. But from the vituperation aimed at them, you'd swear they were fascism personified.

And if truth be told, the band does deserve some props. Unlike, say, the Stone Temple Pilots , Bush or Goldfinger, the Hooties were bona fide indie stars who built a sizable following in Carolina clubs full of real folks, selling their own releases at shows, van-touring sans support. No front for a major like the aforementioned Goldfinger, who masquerade as an indie whilst garnering beaucoup bucks from skateboard companies, and pretending to have their own label while getting major push from Geffen--this year's flava rammed down the throats of the easily moved and swayed. Nope, HATB are the real deal at least.

Upon hearing Hootie major-label-disc numero duo, Fairweather Johnson, I feel inclined to re-revise my assessment. Having only slight knowledge of the band's noise via their two major hits, I figured them as a minor annoyance, mellifluous piffle that neither offends nor pleases. Fairweather Johnson sucks, however. Like most follow-ups to blockbusters, it sounds scared and unadventurous, plus most of the tunes seem only half-baked at best.

I know Southerners are laid-back, but this disc is somnambulant and vocalist Darius Rucker literally sounds like he's snoring on more than a few of the numbers. I think most folks loathe the Hooties cuz they're so successful at aggressive mediocrity, but if this were some local NoCal hippie combo's indie release, I'd have tossed it immediately. Picture Jimmy Buffett sans wit, Marshall Tucker minus roots and forward motion, R.E.M. stripped of everything except their ex-producer (who did Fairweather), the Allman Brothers without guitar chops, and you've got Hootie and the Blowfish.

And given the backlash, I suspect these guys will be returning to smaller halls soon. You'd think. But since Americans have an insatiable appetite for ear-wash lite, Hootie et al. may yet become institutionalized bilge. Now, isn't that wonderful?

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From the May 16-22, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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