“Sometimes loneliness can hurt,” Tom Tikka begins to explain in the first line of his song “Sweet Sugar” from the EP Insane, and as true as these words are on paper, they’re all the more cutting when presented against the sonic backdrop we find them in here. Insane features a Tom Tikka & The Missing Hubcaps who aren’t content to play the same strain of rock n’ roll that their heroes once made their own – they want their own brand of beats in this record. Despite its being an extended play, this is one disc that feels as large and in charge as any album I’ve heard this year.

The string play does a lot of the talking where lyrics would have probably fallen short in “Driving Me Insane” and “Good Ol’ Stupid Me,” and I really like how well Tikka is able to share the spotlight with their thunder. There hasn’t been as much virtuosity in rock these last few years as there was in the genre’s first couple of decades, and though it’s mostly missing from Insane as well, there’s enough evidence of a guitar-born excess to believe this band is capable of bringing the noise when they need to.

“Summer Means New Love” and the aforementioned “Good Ol’ Stupid Me” both feature some lusciously over the top bass presence, and though some are going to be inclined to disagree with my sentiments, I think this is an element of rebelliousness that makes Insane the fun record it truly and inarguably is. Everyone else seems to be in love with the minimalist concept right now, but for this group, it’s more prudent to bring in something a bit more colorful than what the mainstream is currently allowing to dominate the charts. Establishment-approved or not, this sound is definitely in its own lane.

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Though it it’s on the shorter side at a basic seventeen minutes total, Insane doesn’t feel like it’s lacking the cohesiveness that endears an album to its audience. There’s a steady flow to the tracklist that carries us through poppier numbers like “Sweet Sugar” into the arms of an introspective “Dismal Day” seamlessly, and this isn’t to discount the diversity of the tones that come between the beginning and end of the record at all. Extended plays are admittedly tricky, especially for a young band, but this is a group that doesn’t appear to have an issue getting everything they want to get done in a timely fashion.

Alternative rock fans who are interested in something a little old school but still a lot more modern than the refurbished beats of their major label rivals would be wise to see what Tom Tikka & The Missing Hubcaps are up to in their EPs Insane and Working Class Voodoo, both of which are getting a lot of well-deserved press from the American indie underground this summer. Tikka is a man who doesn’t care about the commercial standard – in this sophomore effort, he’s clear about where his priorities are with regards to resurrecting simple, emotionally-valid pop/rock, and he absolutely has my endorsement moving forward.

Sebastian Cole