I was introduced to Hum by an interview I read with Chino Moreno from the Deftones, where he named his 10 favorite albums of all time. You’d Prefer an Astronaut by Hum was one of them. Friends of mine had mentioned Hum before, but when I listened them the first time around, I didn’t really get it. After I got deeper into their catalog, it all started to click, and now they are a mainstay in my listening rotation.
I do not have that great deal of knowledge about their history, lifestyles, or biography, but I do know that I listen to their albums all the time. I also know that the point of these articles I’m writing is to show you music that you may have missed, not to give you a history lesson about the 90’s. They have released three records: Electra2000, You’d Prefer an Astronaut, and Downward is Heavenward. Although they’ve played a few shows in recent years, their appearances are rare, and I have never had the chance to see them live.
Hum’s most well known song is called “Stars” with bands like Finch frequently covering this tune in their own sets. “Stars” could be called the pinnacle of the Hum sound; it was also the first song of theirs that made sense to me. Once it clicked, I became infatuated with this band. The other most notable track is their single from Downward is Heavenward called “Coming Home”. This is an up-tempo jam, and has the best production value out of their entire catalog. There are many notable tracks off of Electra2000, but for the novice listener you may want to understand the band first before trying to dive into their first full length release.
When I show this band to people, the first comment that they make is almost always something like, “The band is cool, but I can’t get used to the singer’s voice.” I can understand why this would bother somebody, because Matt Talbot has somewhat of a monotone delivery. He is not overly dynamic. If Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston had a polar opposite, it would be Matt Talbot. Mariah Carey has a 6 octave scale or something, and will hit almost every note in it during a 3 minute song. Talbot on the other hand is calm, collected, and selective in his melodies. In my eyes, this is what makes Hum so special. His voice casually moves in and out of the harmonies on the guitars. Another important part of the Hum sound is how powerful the guitars are. It is quintessential 90’s grunge guitar, but better. When the beat drops on a song like “Stars”, the guitars explode. I often find myself listening to drums first, but with some of these tracks, the guitars just blow you away. Regardless, I love this band, and at bare minimum go listen to “Stars”, “I’d Like Your Hair Long”, or if you’re looking for a more trippy song check out “Afternoon With the Axolotls”.
The general aesthetic of the band is often referred to as “nerd rock” because the lead singer wears large librarian glasses and their songs are often about astronomy and mathematics. I refer to it as “awesome.”