Reviewed by: Bryan Culver
Joseph Hirabayashi is a Montreal-via-Vancouver upstart that goes by the moniker Jo Passed. The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s debut EP, Out, released via Craft Singles, cranks out energetic guitar distortion, ethereal vocal melodies, and assertive crashing drums to piece together a concise template of Hirabayashi’s neo-psych sound.
Previous to Jo Passed, Hirabayashi was in a Vancouver-based outfit Sprïng, which ultimately disbanded after releasing their solitary full-length record Celebrations in March 2014. Post-breakup, it appears Hirabayshi was determined to reconcile his differences in artistic vision by hitting the road even harder and collaborating with wider swath of musicians across a vastly larger geographic scope.
First and foremost this album speaks a flavor of grunge that predominated college radio airwaves in the late ’80s and early ’90s. You can’t listen to this record without hearing a nod to Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, Husker Dü, or one of the numerous noise rock projects that makes up Steve Albini’s seemingly endless catalog. There’s a punk spirt to this record—and perhaps it comes from Hirabyashi’s propensity to adhere to similar DIY ethics, recording in a wide array of studios, both professional and make-shift, and collaborating with a rotating roster of like-minded musicians—conquering the quest to find his creative voice all his own.
His wispy vocal melodies are particularly reminiscent of some of those indispensable lo-fi records. Perhaps the lyrics just aren’t meant to be the centerpiece of his music. Perhaps Hirabayashi wanted to give the record an overall haunting effect. Nonetheless, this is a guitar rock album, and distortion and feedback dominate his sonic landscape.
When browsing Jo Passed’s Facebook page I couldn’t help but notice they’d made a post declaring their admiration for American post-punk originator’s Pere Ubu and their iconic 1978 harshly abstract debut Modern Dance. While I wouldn’t go quite so far as comparing Out to a Pere Ubu record (for better or worse), there’s certainly a taste for experimental abandon, and a jeering propensity that’s both distraught and unsatisfied. This music is raw, and the tone is dead serious despite having song titles like “Lego My Ego” and “No Joy (I’m Not a Real Girl)”.
Perhaps at the end of the day you take this album as a starting point. Indeed, I hope this is merely an introduction Hirabayashi’s noise-injected world. If you’re into the harsher side of ’90s alternative, this record certainly fits the bill. Otherwise, this one might be a bit deadpan. Nonetheless, this is a highly listenable record, and I’m glad Jo Passed is constantly on the road because I’d love to see these songs manifest themselves on a stage in Philly.