Beat Blvd. is Heard Mentality's weekly review of local releases. If you're an OC musician or band with something new to offer--vinyl single, full-length album, CD, cassette--we want to hear from you! Send copies, along with any photos and PR material, to Beat Blvd., c/o OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste. 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. You can also e-mail us digital downloads at email@example.com.
We're Just Really Excited to Be Here
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
If nothing else, the album title for this debut by the Garden Grove-based trio is pretty accurate--they do sound excited from the get-go, practically revelling in the kind of anthemic, clean-but-charging commercial indie that might as well be arena rock with lots of smiles more than lots of explosions. The expected hints and nods are all there--U2's ringing melodrama, the Arcade Fire's big wailing, Interpol's if-only-we-were-postpunk-for-real starlust, flecks of Blink-182 in a more "mature" phase and more--all given a dollop of radio-ready sheen, suitable for song placement on a TV show at some point soon.
The downside of all this is that it's a band still so understandably in debt to its inspirations that it can feel a bit brash and hollow at points, enthusiasm trumping impact. Even "The Asskickers' Union," nothing but vocals and acoustic guitar, rips along as something that seems to want a huge clap-shoutalong accompaniment, quieting down for a seemingly random Lady Gaga slam precisely so it can be sung along with all that much more loudly. And while the stab at funk on "Too Close to Call" may be well intentioned, it's no Funkadelic (or Gang of Four, for that matter).
So what works best? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's when things get a little subtler--not necessarily quieter, but more able to sneak in sideways. So "Minor Sounds of Inconvenience," with a taut swing to its arrangement, has a none-more-eighties-revival chorus but an even better verse with a calmer, desperate edge, while "The Patriot" turns out to be a pretty deft slam on mindless jingoism that brings out the group's professed rockabilly love in engaging fashion. Meanwhile, even something as simple as taking a busy performance, stripping it back a bit for the break and then ripping into a huge blast of an ending, as on "A Pirate's Shanty," shows the trio does have a knack for making the familiar sound engaging.