The greatest Portland album you have never heard of

The greatest Portland album you have never heard of

Toreador of Love was the first studio album released by Hazel, a Portland born alternative rock band with a sound unlike any other. Released in 1993 with 13 full length songs, the album was met with dreadfully low recognition. In fact, the album is still so under-recognized it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page like most other studio released albums.

The album itself is a dark, raw, and fast experience coming in at only 39 minutes of music over 13 songs. The album is so rough, it almost feels like it was released before it was finished or even processed in some parts, giving it a real raw feel to it.

This is shown best in the album’s first and shortest song “Joe Louis Punchout”. The song, like many others on the album, starts out with a blast of rhythmic music and is then almost immediately followed up with what feels like a stumble in the beat. Almost immediately, the music is picked back up to repeat the process again and again. The vocals follow a similar story, being thorough and rhythmic with sporadic spots of faster or slower singing. Altogether, the song feels like a first draft in all the right ways.

This raw factor is also highlighted by the fact that many of the songs are duets between the lead vocalists Pete Krebs and Jody Bleyle. This aspect is almost hard to call a duet, seeing as how much of the lyrics are either purposefully off-beat, singing over, or singing in response to each other. This half baked, rough-edged partnership is perfectly exemplified in their song “J. Hell”, where they are clearly singing off-beat from each other, and even off-key compared to the other in certain parts of the song.

I personally believe there is no other song on the album that quite shows off their defiantly rough edges like “Comet”. In this song the instrumentals are steady and slow, then almost immediately heavy and rapid–and then back to slow again, continuing to alternate between the two tempos. The vocals follow this flow pretty closely, not only in tempo, but in crudeness as well. With the lead singer repeating and interrupting himself halfway through a line, and then alternating to the other singer in an almost unrefined fashion. Throughout each of the singer’s parts, the other can be heard joining in and leaving the duet randomly, and then singing in the background with entirely disconnected lyrics.

The only song that genuinely feels like a duet would have to be the album’s last and longest song, “Truly.” While not earning the title of their most popular song like “Day Glo,” “Truly” is something truly special. Being the culmination of all their grit, gloom, and intensity, this song is only fitting to be the album’s big sendoff.

Starting with an almost entrancing rhythmic beat for almost a whole minute, the song hooks you immediately. The music is then closely followed up with a slow melancholy voice leading the beat back into their typical hard rock sound. The singers now being joined for the first time into one harmonious voice, only to shrink back into a slow and quiet pace. And just like their other songs this one’s a roller-coaster of tones, switching haphazardly between a gentle stream to an extreme storm of music.

While many songs on this album may sound similar, they are not all the same. This is shown in their song “Everybody’s Best Friend”. A much slower and more somber song when compared to the rest of the album’s fast and vigorous rock elements. Another notable difference is the album’s song “Boog”, a tribute song to Boog Powell. Where in the first 40 seconds a monotone voice describes the song’s meaning and who Boog Powell is, before swiftly returning to some more rocking beats just like the rest.

If you’re finding yourself hard pressed to find a new and unique noise in a world of retreads and over-saturation of music genres, I could not recommend Toreador of Love enough.