Ledge is not a clever band and All I Hope For is not a clever album. Nuance and erudition have no place in this music, and there’s no shame in that; whom among us does not count lunkheaded and reductionist music among their passions? Whether it’s deathcore, slam, war metal, stoner rock, or today’s subject (lurching hardcore), most metalheads have a weakness for dumb fun of some variety. We want something stupid and heavy to complement our drinking, gym routine, vegetable chopping, etc. Through breakdown-saturated hardcore, John Hoffman’s (ex-Weekend Nachos, about a hundred less-beloved hardcore bands) solo project exists only to be heavy and angry.
Ledge is a modest project which succeeds in its modest aesthetic goal: to sound pissed off to the point of nuclear annihilation. Hoffman handles every instrument with only the competence necessary to play angry hardcore and makes no attempt to impress listeners with his technical prowess, sticking to d-beats and power chords when he’s not pounding slow beats over sluggish pit riffs. He doesn’t give a fuck that you think that’s lazy and he nails every measure. I’m loath to quote press materials, but I think Hoffman’s own explanation of the writing process (or lack thereof) elucidates the intent of Ledge best:
“I write all of the songs in the key of standard E on a very shitty acoustic guitar that is missing several strings. The songs are never rehearsed with a full band. The first time any of these songs are actually heard is when the album is recorded.”
Is it good? That’s almost beside the point. I can tell you this much: if you listen to this while drinking, you’ll get hammered. If you listen to this while pumping iron, you’ll set PRs. If you listen to this while chopping vegetables, you’ll lose a finger. Hoffman’s riffs, drum grooves, and roars are not new but they are heavy and display greater versatility here than he did on his Cold Hard Concrete debut; half of the album’s cuts are pissed plodders akin to Ledge’s older material, while the others spin up their d-beats enough to pass for Weekend Nachos b-sides that went a little heavy on their eponymous and delicious snack. Hoffman rolls out blast beats on “We Suffer” and even plays a lead at one point in “Insincere” which appears exactly once, probably because he just thought it sounded cool there. He’s right; it sounds righteous.
I’m happy to see this evolution in Ledge; I may not have been able to sit through another record consisting entirely of breakdowns, no matter how well Hoffman and former Nachos guitarist Andy Nelson sell the sound. Now that Hoffman is more comfortable as a multi-instrumentalist his music can back up his formidable presence as a vocalist and belligerent lyricist. Yet I can’t help wishing he took an even greater step forward and excised some of the album’s slow and frankly boring cuts. As it stands, All I Hope For is nearly forty minutes. Cutting the album’s weakest songs – the last two – would bring it down to 26 and make for a much more compelling experience. Clip some of the fat from that arrangement and you could fit in three more short bangers like “We Suffer” in the same runtime. Sure, this would negate Ledge’s claim of mixing hardcore and/or sludge and doom, but in response I would posit the following;
a) Nobody wanted that in the first place. Who the fuck would listen to a powerviolence album and think it would be better without the fast parts? Nobody. That’s stupid.
b) That slow, simplistic style was due to Hoffman’s constraints as an instrumentalist, which he has now pushed past
At this rate, Ledge’s third record will prove itself a fine plate of Nachos-style powerviolence and Hoffman will prove he can execute exciting material. All this nonsense about experimenting with doom will be lost to regular old hardcore breakdowns. Ledge may be less unique, but to be the “world’s slowest hardcore project” is as dubious an honor as they come and, frankly, it sucked to see Hoffman’s first solo album saddled with it. Maybe he’ll even branch out and write some creative shit for album three. Maybe he won’t. Either way, I’m happy to see Hoffman improving, happy to give this record a better score than its predecessor, happy with my nice stir fry, and happy that the doctors could reattach my thumb.