Every review of the eponymous EP recently released by Aina Haina seems obligated to first mention the day job of Dylan Magierek—producer, engineer and co-founder of globally renowned tastemaker label Badman Recording Co. But while his reputation doubtlessly elevated the act's profile above the average collegiate combo reunited after decades apart, don't think this a mere side project.
If anything, there's reason to suspect that all intervening career accomplishments were means to this end: With singer-guitarist Mike Ailes in town and back in the fold, the University of Hawaii classmates are finally getting the band back together. Coyly vague about specificities of timeline, it nevertheless seems safe to assume that the self-styled "power duo" shares at least a passing familiarity with the late '80s, and for a 24-minute collection that may have gestated for as many years, the results arrive absent appreciable nostalgia. Instead, they mix and match certain touchstones of the era—cheekily tumescent hair-metal riffs swaggering alongside Smithereens-styled artisanal power-pop craft—with a palpable assurance that the ideas are fresh or at least sound fresh.
However laudable the duo's refusal to pander to the times or indulge in overdone dad-rock enthusiasms, avoidance of embarrassment often seems the height of their ambitions. With Ailes portraying a missionary on the first track's vocals and a hippie on the last, the limited personal investment wearies. "Got no conscience/ Got no shame," he warbles even while trying his damnedest to tunefully manage a tricky leap of pitch, but burdensome levels of both conscience and shame impose a numbing remove. They made no vanity project, but I wish I thought one song was about them.
SEE IT: Aina Haina plays Analog Cafe, 720 SE Hawthorne Blvd., with Wolf Pussy, on Saturday, April 27. 9 pm. $5. 21+.