Palehound – Dry Food

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Palehound – Dry Food

So at some point it became fashionable to dig through the ruins of the Nineties for inspiration.  A certain part of the Nineties, mind you:  no one is out there trying to get a revival of New Jack Swing going, and those horrible early Nineties outfits are the fodder of Bojack Horseman jokes rather than actual modern fashion choices.  Nineties indie rock, however, is quite obviously the in thing in certain circles these days.  How many bands hyped by the Interwebz lately have been dead ringers for 90s alt-rock underground acts?  Yuck, Twerps, Jeff The Brotherhood, California X, Speedy Ortiz – the list keeps going, long after I’m tired of naming them off.  Is this Twilight‘s fault?  I noticed people wearing dour flannel outfits after the movies gained traction, and after you finish listening to Alice In Chains for the umpteenth time I guess there’s nothing to do but dig through digital crates.

Either way, Palehound is another entry into the canon of bands that really wish it was 1995 again.  Even the name sounds like something the alt-rock scene would have vomited up, like Keanu Reeves’ band Dogstar (remember them?  No you don’t).  If Jeff The Brotherhood wants to be early Weezer (with the cock rock worship intact) and Yuck wants to be Dinosaur Jr., Palehound seems fixated on early Cat Power, mediated through the latter Pavement records.  It’s okay.  I realize that’s a meme but there’s really no better way to describe the album.  It’s not offensive.  It rises slightly above mediocre.  It will find some fans,  and people who are nostalgic for a time period that they were infants in will pick it up and talk about how authentic it is.

Here’s the thing:  I didn’t listen to Pavement or Dinosaur, Jr. until 2002.  My friends and I didn’t grow up listening to Built To Spill, and I didn’t realize that Chan Marshall was a person who made exquisite music until 2006.  If you grew up outside the city core, you grew up on the radio and on mainstream alternative rock:  your Nirvana, your Pearl Jam, your Soundgarden, your Alice In Chains.  The Nineties that bands like Palehound are imagining were a decade reconstructed after the fact, subtracting crap like the Nixons and Creed in favour of Guided By Voices and Sebadoh.  For most of us, it never happened, but Palehound wants to spin a world where it did, a world of winsome vocals, messy guitars, and skinny flannel indie-kid poetry.  Good on them for trying, but it’s a pale imitation of work that was obscure the first time around.

pinkshinyultrablast – Everything Else Matters

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pinkshinyultrablast – Everything Else Matters

There’s nothing new here, but when it comes to shoegaze in 2015 what do you really expect?  All the usual signifiers are here:  the reverb-soaked, wistful vocals, the guitar work that is made heavy through judicious use of delay pedals, the rocket-fuelled leaps in dynamics, the general sense that someone has taken amped-up C86 songs and applied a smudge tool to them.  So, if you’re looking for originality, you’re looking in the wrong place.  That said, as far as shoegazer bands go, pinkshinyultrablast is one of the better ones; Everything Else Matters is a lot of fun, derivativeness notwithstanding, and it’s sugar-rush vibe will surely catch more than a few people.

 

 

Foxygen – “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic”

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foxygen-21st-century-ambassadors

Foxygen is the result of a love for Sixties psychedelic troubadour rock filtered through a fine David Bowie mesh.  Their third album is at once highly derivative and yet wholly original.  Taken from the aspect of being an album solidly rooted in the 1960s, it is highly inventive, and stands alongside the bands it references as an equal, not a clone.  None of the band members were alive when this sort of music was made, nor were they living during the waves of bands that referenced those bands.  Nevertheless, they hit every mark with style and aplomb, whether it’s evoking Dylan on “No Destruction”, referencing Sgt. Peppers on their own intro, or shapeshifting Lennon with Seventies glam on the three-part “Shuggie”.  The album is perfect to play around aging hippies; they get all misty-eyed and start talking about their favourite parts of the Sixties.  Meanwhile, it’ll also get your local hipsters into a serious groove, getting the jump started in whatever espresso cafe or bookstore/bar you happen to be happening in.  If they aren’t into it by the time that thrilling run in the first part of “On Blue Mountain” comes around, they weren’t worth the plaid anyway.  Dress like a fop, smoke some pot, and guzzle cheap wine like it were going out of style:  the band doesn’t just suggest that you do so, it demands it.

Final Mark:  A