By – Jaclyn Robbins
Your first listen to a Hotline TNT song will hopefully be with perfect settings. It will be adequate volume, gain high and ready to be railed into by crunch and fuzz, a clear playground for layers of sonics that can almost be heard vertically. A few bars of music will hint towards their inclination for a three guitar setup at live shows. With bass tones to match and a knack for characteristically laid back drum pockets, Hotline TNT is a band that’s “tour tight” and dripping with an ethos of early 90’s swagger. Any good writing teacher from the elementary level to the college level will tell you to consider your audience. And in this instance I would implore you to consider the author. My opinion of Hotline sits a bit past positive and borders on Fangirl. After a few local encounters with the band at Birmingham staple venues like Firehouse and Saturn, as well as time spent with their critically acclaimed 2021 LP “Nineteen in Love” my love has been cemented. But so too has the narrative for Hotline TNT. Anderson and his company of collaborators are back with the full length LP “Cartwheel” out this Friday November 3rd. I’ve spent a few weeks with the album and Anderson has again refined the bands take on fuzzy rock goodness. It’s their first project released since signing to Jack White’s own Nashville-based label Third Man Records. This following the bands team up with Ground Control Touring earlier is sure to keep them on the rise and making some of my favorite music.
There are two constants among Hotline TNT. The project’s originator and main riff author Will Anderson and an idiosyncratic sense of melody. Among a growingly fuzzy landscape emerging among the DIY rock scene Hotline has been a stand out for me. I feel like it’s perfectly illustrated in Anderson’s streamlined use of pedals – I’ve heard him quoted as often being armed with
nothing but some stock amp distortion and a little bit of chorus for a live tone. The thrill of Hotline riffs is in the energy and the “teeter-on-pop” level catchiness that will have you humming their songs hours after turning the LP off. Their auditory acrobatics are all in melodic choices, a particularly recognizable strum pattern and centralizing of rhythm, and a genuine “no fucks given” attitude. It is the perfect mix and you can tell Anderson is enjoying himself.
This crack at a full length has Hotline TNT showcasing both their classic tenements and a few new tricks. On “Cartwheel” Anderson not only leans into the crunch and tenderness of fuzz but in the latency of Chorus – tracks like “Stump” or “Protocol”. “Protocol”, one of the band’s singles leading to the LP also sets the tone lyrically for the album. The entirety of their first LP was a clear cut look at a significant romantic relationship formative to our primary songwriter. The album aptly titled “Nineteen in Love” teemed with musings on youthful love and often its timely end. “Cartwheel” sees Anderson again reckoning with his encounters with love on songs like “Out of Town” and “I Know You”. There is new subject matter here as well, a stand out track for me on the album being “BMX”. Seemingly lyrically about friendships in his life and maybe the connection they share to the sport. It also features some of the LP’s most fanatical, speedy guitars and was the standout track for me as a fan on the first listen.
Last November I was driving up to Boone, North Carolina with a friend. It was my driving shift the last half – the half with the windy mountain roads – and as I am sure you would agree the rules are simple. If you are driving you get to control the music. And seeing as I am an excellent DJ my reign on the playlist had since begun but with the wheel between my fingers I was reassured to punish my passenger with whatever my heart desired. This time in the car with someone I have always found quite sacred. A lot of my best conversations with friends have been in times like these but even better than using the language of words to communicate, we often use the language of music. I revel in the opportunity to show loved ones some of my favorite tunes. In a way I’m saying “Hi, I wish you could see this about me but instead I will show you.” I remember playing a lot of Hotline TNT that ride. And often when I close my eyes and reminisce on that trip I hear those songs. (“Country Mile” in particular if you are curious). I wonder what I was attempting to say by playing them? Maybe I was feeling unheard. I often feel like Will’s voice in those songs. Gently revealing my truth among the chaos. But how lucky to have friendships to share those moments with. I hope reading this you’ll take this as my attempt to have that same share with you no matter friend or stranger.
Ending with the theme of friendships I’ll leave a thought on Hotline from a dear friend of mine.
“All these songs sound like they’re playing out of an AM/FM alarm clock radio and that’s like the point.”
Written by: Jaclyn Robbins
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