Watch out - my new band detector unit is flashing code red. That means we've got a hot one.
Here's your essential information. The Human Value are two humans and a drum machine - on this album, anyway: the band now have a full-scale human line-up. They come from Somewhere, USA. Guitarist and all-round man-who-makes-the-music Hiram Fleites was once in Kittens For Christian; vocalist Turu was previously in Sukhotin (nope, I'd never heard of them, either). But the really essential information is simply this: The Human Value are a cracking combo. It's been a while since a new band has come out of nowhere and made me think, Ooooh. This lot are a bit good. But The Human Value have pasted a grin on my stupid face and I'm sitting here moshing in my seat. That's a result all right. Even if it does make me look like a twit.
The band's sound is a splendid combination of gritty, buzzing, clanging guitar and Turu's world-weary, after-closing-time vocals. The rhythms are neatly convincing, rattling everything along like the last train home. It all hangs together ludicrously well, and the songs themselves are little things of beauty. The sound of The Human Value pitches up somewhere between PJ Harvey and Th Faith Healers - to mention a 90s British indie outfit of which, I suspect, The Human Value have never heard. But there's something in the way many of the songs here take off into spiralling, guitar-driven mantras, the way Turu sings a kind of keening blues, dragging her voice through gravel in the verses and then revving it all up as the chorus comes round, that recalls the outer fringes of British indie-dom, just as it also hints at vintage US alterno-outfits such as 10,000 Maniacs. And if you're going to deploy a few influences, you can't get much cooler than that lot, is what I say.
All of which doesn't mean that The Human Value are simply a vintage John Peel show distilled down into one band. They stamp their own identity very firmly onto their music. They have a certain jaundiced, world-weary persona, as if they've been buffeted by life but they're still defiantly standing. 'Give Me' is a wonderfully petulant jeremiad, bile and bubblegum-pop handclaps in one neat package. 'Lonely Girl' is a smoke-blackened roadhouse blues, while 'Tonight' is probably the most accessible song here, a tumbling mash-up of syncopating drums and layers of guitar falling over themselves as the song scrabbles up to the take-off-and-fly chorus. If there's a hit single here, this is it. And 'Somebody', on which the band prove their out-there pop sensibility once again, must surely be the follow-up. 'Parts Per Million' blends a little cream with the vinegar - it's a charmingly downbeat ballad, with Hiram shadowing Turu spookily on the vocal. This one'll convince you that the vibraphone is a rock 'n' roll instrument, too. And right at the end there's 'Springtime She Waits' - slow and battered, like an old Pontiac driven by a frowning Tom Waits.
In short, it's all an unexpected treat, and I'm now consumed by a desire to catch The Human Value live. That might not be entirely easy, since although the band seem to gig extensively in the USA they have not, so far, ventured elsewhere. However, apparently vague plans exist for a European tour later this year, and I'd certainly like that to happen. This is lovely stuff, and it needs to be taken to the world.