There were dozens if not hundreds of bands like Giants Chair kicking around the U.S. in the early Nineties: underground acts that were too intense to fit an indie-rock template yet too refined and melodic to be slotted into punk or hardcore. But something about the raw vulnerability in singer-guitarist Scott Hobart’s voice and the streamlined wallop summoned by bassist Byron Collum and drummer Paul Ackerman set this Kansas City band apart.
Growing up in KC, this writer was lucky enough to catch Giants Chair often; they were local heroes with the talent to make a national impact. That never quite happened, but the two excellent albums they made for the Lincoln, Nebraska, indie label Caulfield are highly prized among devotees of the so-called second-wave of emo that also gave rise to fellow cult faves like Braid and Mineral. (If you’re new to Giants Chair, Red and Clear, their 1995 debut, is a great place to start.) And in the early 2000s, influential math-metalists turned space-rockers Cave In tipped their cap to the band with a cover of an obscure 1996 7-inch track.
Giants Chair have reunited sporadically throughout the 2000s, and on December 6th, they return with Prefabylon, their first new LP since 1996. Recent single “Kids Running” showcases all the band’s strengths in under three minutes: chiseled riffing with a hint of twang — Hobart has spent much of past two decades playing country music under the alias Rex Hobart — Collum and Ackerman’s unfussy drive, and Hobart’s raw, emotive vocals, rounded out by elliptical, evocative lyrics (“Dream-tangled sky behind the cold rust/Torn up Amerikaleidoscope lust”).
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In a Talkhouse piece a couple weeks ago, Hobart wrote beautifully about his “unease with nostalgia” for the “good ol’ tour days” — revisited in the new “Kids Running” video, which juxtaposes vintage road footage with new clips of the group performing — as the band prepares to unveil its reunion LP. And in a recent episode of the Washed Up Emo Podcast, Hobart spoke about how fatherhood and his day gig building sets for a children’s theater were his focus these days and that the likely band would be limited to weekend-warrior missions at this stage of the game. But given that their music always felt wise beyond its years, Giants Chair make perfect sense as a middle-aged passion project. Never fashionable to begin with, their approach sounds perfectly at home in 2019.