HXLT’s Debut Fails to Deliver

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Just Because It’s G.O.O.D. Doesn’t Mean It’s Good

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Nigel Holt

Just two hours ago, at 5pm eastern time on Sunday, March 6, Kanye West tweeted one of the more calm and normal things his Twitter feed has seen in over two months. Above an image of HXLT’s debut album cover, he said “Playing the new Nigel Holt album in Paris…this is the perfect vibe right now!”. This kind of exposure handed to Mr. Holt from the founder of G.O.O.D. Music – who originally signed him as a rapper named Hollywood Holt – is about the only piece of positive press you can find anywhere on this record at the moment. As HXLT, Holt operates under a punk rock attitude, but the boundaries are never pummeled over or exploded with anger. There are a lot of moments where he almost fulfills those promises on his self-titled debut for G.O.O.D. Music – even going as far as to feature punk icon Kathleen Hanna on the uneven track, “Together”. I wouldn’t call the record disappointing, because I had no knowledge of Holt before a few months ago. The expectations were simply not there. Still, with West and G.O.O.D. President Pusha T signing him, I expected more of a envelope-pushing statement. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Throughout the album there are several moments where it seems like things are going to coalesce into something intriguing, or at the very least entertaining with a head-turning quality. Just about every track features some of these specific feelings, but they are always counteracted by devastating blows of bizarre shifts in musical tone or, more head-scratching, with literal elementary lyrics. At the midway point of the record, on “Sick”, Holt screams through a chorus with “You’re crazy! And you’re stupid! And you’re psycho! You make me sick! Sick! Sick! Sick! SICK!”. There are toe-tapping elements to this song, but if you’re a music appreciator who happens to focus on lyrics to enhance your overall enjoyment of a song or an album or an artist altogether, then this track will give you a sinking feeling in your heart. It’s hard to imagine any true classic punk-rock fan not giving a lot of merit to the lyricism of their favorite artists. It is in this avenue that Mr. Holt really needs to lay out some pencil sharpeners next time he goes to the composition book if he decides to continue with the HXLT moniker. In other words, he can’t settle for lines like “I wanna rock n roll your face off. I wanna make you fall in love” ever again. Let’s hope for an evolution.

There’s obviously something more underneath the skin of what we’re getting from Holt on this debut, and he’ll have the ever-fortunate blessings of the G.O.O.D. Music label on his side moving forward, as Kanye’s tweet a few hours ago proclaimed. Legend tells that his live performance as HXLT is second to none in execution and crowd engagement. Listening to the songs on this record, even knowing that they are all mediocre at best, it is not difficult to believe that they could translate into one terrific time in the right setting. Holt is still an extremely young artist, and one I’ll be keeping an ear on in the future. It’s a swing and a miss, but not without a lot of effort. Even batting .300 means you’re failing 70% of the time.

 

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Author: Andy Ferguson

Much of who Andy Ferguson has become can be directly attributed to the summer of 1997, when he stumbled upon VHS copies of ‘Swingers’ and ‘Bottle Rocket’, while almost simultaneously becoming introduced to the Dr. Octagon album, ‘Dr. Octagonecologyst’. Living in a small country town in Indiana as a 13 year-old worshipping artists like Kool Keith and Pavement instantly makes one into more than an outcast. Instead of becoming the cliched friendless and depressed shut-in, he embraced the otherworldly culture that these records and films were presenting him.

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