Vol. 2, Issue #15 August 17th - August 30th, 2007

CD Review: El Paso Hot Button -- When I Needed Sympathy
By: Graham Lee Brewer

Mickey Reece a.k.a.El Paso Hot Button once again dabbles in the radical pastiche of booming bass drum, unwavering vocals, gritty guitar, and the spontaneous garbles and crackles of random noise to create a mosaic of tumultuous vigor and awkward beauty. When I Needed Sympathy is built on the same foundation as his previous album, Turtle Wars, relying heavily on jolting movements and in-your-face conventionality.

I’ve always enjoyed it when an artist truly knows how to utilize the transition, that seg-way from one song to the next. Reece takes full advantage of the dead spaces that lie lifelessly in between songs by eliminating them entirely. And as contrasting as the songs are, they seem to flow together with an eery perfection. It’s as if Reece knows exactly what you want to hear next by peaking into your skull and pulling out the most faint, distant memories of obscure yet strangely comforting music and ripping them from your brain, shoving them in your face and reminding you why you kept them tucked away in your subconscious.

That feeling of stark surprise mixed with infectious harmony is most clear in the song “Eleven Years”, an almost spooky ballad filled with tasteful string arrangements and stand-up bass that sounds like it belongs in a lounge scene from a Stanley Kubrick film.

Like on his previous work, Reece’s voice soars high enough to present a piercing quality that mirrors his abrasive guitar work, peaking just before the breaking point of irritability. And when coupled with his retro-pop background vocal arrangements he takes you from wailing croons reminiscent of The Cramps and Jack White to the grainy, black and white archives of 1950’s rock harmonies.

When I Needed Sympathy has some amazing moments in it that keep you guessing what will come next, and while the album really did agree with me, it also has a lot of moments where that feeling of ambiguous anticipation fades into familiarity. Reece has a great niche cut out for himself, but it begs one to ask questions like ‘How far can it take him?’ and ‘When will he change things up?’

This is a great album for now, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s time Reece venture out of the comfortable avenues of the one-man-band kick drum and explore the sonic landscapes. I’m not saying he needs to form a band, but hell, could you imagine how epic that would be? The man can bombard you with a wall of noise all by his lonesome, there’s no telling what he could accomplish live with a full band.

Make sure you get your ass to the Conservatory on August 31 for the release of When I Needed Sympathy. Opening acts include Those Peabodys, The Non, I Resign, and Crazy Diamonds. Quite a line-up for an entrance fee of $7, which interestingly enough, is reduced to only $5 if you dress in funeral attire. Perhaps it’s to commemorate the death of your eardrums.


Check out Zeke Bleak's EPHB interview!

Check out our old video clip of EPHB's early days!

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