Blistering electric guitars meet warm lead vocals, honest harmonies and more than a couple of slick beats in songs like “Summer Means New Love,” “Good Ol’ Stupid Me” and “Sweet Sugar,” but even in the slow song “Dismal Day” and its easy-going counterpart in “Driving Me Insane,” there’s scarcely a moment in which Tom Tikka & The Missing Hubcaps don’t sound on-point in their new EP Insane. Mixing together elements of classic alternative rock and moderate pop songwriting isn’t exactly a new concept, but despite the familiarity of the framing here, there’s no disputing that what Tom Tikka and his band have produced in Insane is quite unique.
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Their approach to emotionality, and specifically the way in which Tikka presents his narratives through a lens that feels both personal and commentarial are what set this extended play apart from the rest, and whether you’ve been following the indie beat for years or are just an occasional consumer of underground pop/rock, this is one record you really can’t afford to miss out on. There isn’t a lot of good music worth writing home about this summer, but for rock enthusiasts, this is a homerun and a half.
The fretwork in “Good Ol’ Stupid Me” sets up the mood right out of the gate in Insane, and while it dabbles in some loud and proud overdrive, there isn’t a single part of its melody that I would assert as being overstated or overdone. For the most part, Tikka’s pretty good about sticking with a conservative blueprint for the harmonies in songs like “Summer Means New Love” and the acoustically-powered “Dismal Day,” with his vocal remaining the undisputed centerpiece no matter what juncture of the tracklist we’re visiting. Lyrically speaking, there’s a vulnerability to his performance in this record that wasn’t present in Working Class Voodoo, his other EP with The Missing Hubcaps out this year, and I think it creates a look he wears exceptionally well. This unguarded emotionality extends itself to the instrumentation to make a full-circle narrative all the more intriguing here, and I don’t think you have to be a big pop fanatic to appreciate it for what it is.
I didn’t know much about Tom Tikka & The Missing Hubcaps before getting turned on to their new extended play in Insane, but now that I’m aware of their presence, they’re going to be staying on my radar for sure. Theirs is a modest indulgence that I want to hear a lot more of in the future, and although they’re entering the underground spotlight during one of the most competitive times in all of pop music history, the relative lull created by a combination of COVID-19 and rock n’ roll lethargy on the part of the mainstream has created the perfect window for this band to exploit.
Tikka has all the makings of being a rally captivating frontman, and here, I think we’re only getting a mild sample of what he can do when there’s nothing to come between his storytelling and the audience.