Hollywood Gossip’s debut EP closes with the song “Something’s Happening,” a joyful pop collision apparently intended as an ode to Austin and its music scene. It’s a fantastic tune, and culls an array of notable local artists like Miranda Brown, Jeff Johnston, the Breather’s Claire Hamilton, and Voxtrot’s Jason Chronis and Jared Van Fleet into an exuberant closing chorus, warbling out “Everyone is a part of it” into a ragged guitar solo. The song is both self-consciously mocking and lovingly celebratory of the scene - which of course warrants both – opening with a hard bouncing declaration: “Bad haircuts, no prudence, 5 p.m., drunk with the students. You know we’re alright.” The following expose of the “young city” and “kids with naïve symphonies” only testifies to the fact that, like or not, everyone is indeed a part of it.
More importantly, though, is that the song manages to capture an excitement of at least “something” happening, even if no one knows exactly what, and Hollywood Gossip has planted themselves firmly in the middle of that something. If we had to box it, which is our job, it would the young pack that several years ago were bopping uncontrollably along to Voxtrot inside Emo’s with Xs on their hands and have now moved on to take root in the Eastside and pack the Mohawk every night. In other words, the pop kids have come of age, but just haven’t exactly figured out what to do yet.
Hollywood Gossip encompasses that wonderful sense of insensibility throughout the EP’s seven tracks. The quartet is infectious, clever, and with more than a bit of jaded cynicism, the kind of twee with a twist that you expect from Belle and Sebastian and hard pop bite of locals like Voxtrot or Oh No! Oh My! Add to that the irreverent reveling in a city of slackerdom on par with Peel, and Hollywood Gossip has a helluva debut.
The title track opens the EP with the kind of effervescent lilt and rough chugging beat of Bishop Allen, bobbing behind Tyler Womack’s nasally and clipped vocals. Womack croons more sweetly on “Friends Like These,” which bursts with slightly more power and spite, but the same kind of innocent heartbreak and angst cut with wide-eyed dreams that characterizes most of the songs.
“Bicycle” may the best offering on the album, however, an uber-peppy number that brings to mind The Boy Least Likely To. The female touch of Cory Ryan’s harmonies as Womack woos in futility is a nice match, and the trumpet surge by (of course) Kullen Fuchs fills the song with a luminous gluster. Birthday ode “Twenty-Five” mellows a bit behind the punchy harmonica opening before wearily crescendoing into the chorus of ageing disillusion and pleading recognition. “Go Back” swings back into form though, irresistibly tight as it winds through Womack’s clever phrases, and “Hairlike” attempts a soulful sway that settles into the sunset.
But it’s the closing anthem of “Something’s Happening” that embodies the kind of rousing esprit of Austin pop that Hollywood Gossip has produced so well here. What will happen as that kind of scene matures even further, perhaps already forecast in the harder shot of Voxtrot’s 2007 LP, is worth watching, and as Hollywood Gossip’s debut at least makes clear, is in talented hands.