by Jeff Milo
Detroit rock trio The Hard Lessons have donned a lot of hats in their 10-year run, debuting with a charged post-garage soul and swagger, to an accelerated, punkier brand of pop. They’ve gone completely clean and catchy with cute indie-pop earworms and they’ve gone more psychedelic with heavily produced records. This one’s as close to the sound they had at their “start.” Its rock n’ roll with a lot of heart and soul, but brisker than before. Pop music can have a naïve whimsy with its playful melodies, and that holds true here with the HLs title-track single, but the vocals bare a more intriguing bite this time, waxing on that whole being true-to-ones-self maxim, sounding warier and wiser than before, thus liberated enough to just go back and embrace what always worked before .
It’s telling that stand-out ballad “Gramercy Riff” samples sneering dialogue from cult flick “The Warriors,” since this is a forceful, grimacing kind of rock record, sounding ready for a fight. They’ve tried this and that, but now it’s time to plug in and get it done; employing hammers they’d not gripped since their Wise Up EP. Finish it!