The Hidden Agendas are a four-piece alternative rock group hailing from Williamsport, PA. They are the brainchild of singer/songwriter and guitarist Ron Fleeger and bassist/vocalist Matthew Zarzyczny, who formed the group in 2013, adding drummer Scott Gibbs and keyboard player Sarah Gibbs to the line-up.
Their music is hard to define in terms of genre, as it varies from song to song and draws on a wide range of electric influences. This five-track E.P. Ragtime Gangsters starts with the cathartic heavy rock of The Devil’s Hymn, which features a great lead vocal performance, relentless drums and a roaming bassline beneath a barrage of electric guitars. The powerful chorus (“I keep saying no….”) soon lodges in the mind, and it makes for an arresting opener.
The Mad Captain is quite different, almost like a Herman Melville story set to folk music. The chorus is simply huge, with what sounds like an entire ship’s crew singing it (presumably the idea!). This fantasy element is perhaps the influence of Coheed and Cambria, a band they cite. The narrative works well, the compelling story of the lyrics keeping the listener hooked.
Doppelgangin’ is more straightforward, alternative rock dominated by a crunchy guitar sound, with some quirky low-end riffs and unexpected chord changes. The Texan also has its share of unconventional and unpredictable chords, with a loping drum groove and a real reggae feel through the use of emphasising the offbeat. The chorus is fiendishly catchy and it’s another highlight.
Last track, the epic, five-minute Alien is a big contrast yet again, a mournfully slow song full of melancholy about being an outsider: “I don’t belong and I don’t fit in, I’ve never been able to be anything but alien….”. The unusual melody and rhythm these words are sung to somehow makes them all the more poignant and affecting. It’s an emotional close to a passionate collection of songs.
Overall, this is a very good E.P. that shows this bands musical and lyrical range, as well as their ability to craft inventive and memorable songs in varying styles. I expect them to continue to grow musically, and for their fanbase to increase with every release. I look forward to hearing a whole album in the future.
Verdict: 8.4 out of 10