Posted by: Johnny Loftus on June 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm

The Hard Lessons, B & G Sides (Quack! Media, 2008)

Listen: “Don’t Shake My Tree”

Volumes one through three of this EP set from hard-touring Detroit kids the Hard Lessons are already available, and “See and be Scene” (with the “boy,” Augie, out front) and “Don’t Shake My Tree” (with the “girl,” Ko Ko, on lead vocals) have proven to be as giddily unstoppable over the last few months as they were when the band first debuted the songs on their seemingly 24/7/365 tour schedule. (It doesn’t matter where you live: if you haven’t seen the Hard Lessons coming through your town, you don’t get out to the rock clubs enough.) The fourth volume, which Quack! and the band will release separately as well as with its brethren in a two-LP or four-CD set later this summer, finds Augie and Ko Ko getting wistful about the power and allure of teenage girls over some tasteful slide guitar work by producer and sideman extraordinaire Dave Feeny, followed by the full version of volume 2′s “Sound of Coming Down” and “The Painter,” the track that started it all way back on the first set. Understand all that? While it might have been easier for the Lessons to just issue all of this stuff at once, their persistent commitment to fun in music and a sense of history that acknowledges the role of singles in music forgives the relative awkwardness of a four-part release. And besides, what really matters here is the growth the band displays throughout B & G Sides. They’re still about the big guitar rave-up, or the soulful organ swoosh that Ko Ko will carry with her raucous, Irma Thomas sass. But there’s a softening of the anxious edges here, too, and that other word, too — maturity — displayed in downturned honesty of “Sound of Coming Down,” the bristles and shouts that make “12345678″ way better than its lyrical simplicity should let it be, and the tender pop of “I Like Your Hair Long.” The Hard Lessons are still in transition with B & G Sides. But the bands that are going to be around for longer than one cycle of high school kids deserve a growth period, especially one with as many highlights as this set has. — Johnny Loftus

The Hard Lessons play Rock City, Thursday, June 12, at 10:15 pm in the Majestic Theatre.

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