One of the more pleasing side effects of the pandemic has been the increase in impetus enforced lockdowns and time off the road has given bands to get creative. Buffalo, New York rockers Hearts & Hand Grenades, for instance, are just about to launch their second full-length album of 2021 on us in the shape of Between The Lines – but is all that feverish activity come at the expense of important things like songcraft and hummability? A case of ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’ as artists struggle to replace touring income with more recorded ‘product’?

In this case I’m able to answer in an emphatic negative. H&HG have taken the blueprint of their January-hatched debut, Turning To Ashes, and expanded gloriously upon it.

Which means you’re in for another ten doses of taut, angular new-wavey rock topped off with the metallic flourish of Kenny Blesy‘s lead guitar and the unabashed star – make that STAR – quality of bass playing singer Stephanie Wlosinksi. In the process the band has come up with two of the best songs they’ve ever written in the shape of the spine tingling Black Sunset and epic penultimate track Wait, but in reality Between The Lines isn’t an album that needs it’s highlights pointed out since there’s something to love almost everywhere you drop the needle.

Tragedy and Bad Medicine form a solid mid-album fulcrum, the former a galloping rocker fans of Welsh rockers Häxan will find pushes quite a few buttons, the latter a rollicking, radio-friendly anthem of the sort the band are already making their own if the likes of this and Nothing Left from the debut are anything to go by. And in Wlosinski, who gets just the right mix of sass and attitude as she delivers the lyrics, they have just the vocalist to achieve maximum impact.

The keyboard-drenched Wait is the only track that exceeds five minutes in length, and the relative brevity of the other songs here adds to that air of spiky urgency the band are so adept at conjuring up. This is required listening if you love any of the great new wave female vocalists of the late seventies and early eighties, or just well put-together, fiery hard rock like it used to be made…

Between The Lines releases on November 19th.