Hazel emerged in the first batch of Portland, Oregon bands (Crackerbash, Heatmiser, Pond, Sprinkler) that seemed to flower spontaneously just as nearby Seattle was in the throes of grunge overkill. From the first, Hazel was a bit of an oddity, a trio of young musicians accompanied by a much older dancer, Fred Nemo, whose role is roughly comparable to that of Bez in Happy Mondays. Toreador of Love (initially entitled Lucky Dog) features a handful of bouncing songs like “She’s Supersonic” and “Everybody’s Best Friend” that retain some of emo-core’s rhythm (a penchant for starting and stopping chaotically) but not at the expense of pop songsmithing. Drummer Jody Bleyle adds tart supporting vocals to guitarist Peter Krebs’ leads, while Brady Smith’s bass remains unobtrusive.
By Are You Going to Eat That, Hazel’s future was clouded by Bleyle’s role in Team Dresch (whose Donna Dresch co-produced the album) and her co-ownership of the Candy-Ass label; Krebs had begun playing the odd solo acoustic show. Bleyle’s vocals are more prominent and the band’s recorded sound is fuller, but there’s little real improvement between discs. If anything, Hazel’s pop penchant has been de-emphasized in favor of the miasma of indie rock. The album’s most striking songs — “Crowned” and “Ringing in My Ears” — are all but acoustic.