Saturday, April 9, 2011
An Electrifying Edifice of Ebullient EP's Featuring Wheels on Fire, Lecherous Gaze, and The Queue,
Garage rock has always seemed like a broad, sweeping genre to me. Spawning in the 1960s, it can range from anything to the raw sound of early punk to songs like “Louie, Louie”, a song that I could easily go the rest of my life without ever hearing again. Thankfully, Wheels On Fire, hailing from Athens, OH, are clearly targeting the garage punk sound on their new EP, Cherry Bomb. Using the same, fairly simple style found in the 60s, Wheels On Fire manage to bring a fresh sound to a garage scene that has been searching for someone to rise to the top, and they seem poised to do just that.
The EP opens up with “Black Wave”, which will immediately have you hooked right from the get go. From an intro that slowly invites the listener in with a catchy guitar hook, then lyrics that will keep you riveted from start to finish. The first time I was listening, I found myself repeating this song over and over, which ended up becoming a recurring theme throughout the four songs. The sound they invoke reminds me slightly of Black Lips songs like “It Feels Alright” or “Veni Vidi Vici”, with a distinct garage sound, yet a twinge of pop stirred in there, just to make it a little more interesting.
As far as this EP goes, the best song they offer up is “Broken Up”. This song reminds me of mostly forgotten garage punkers like The Alarm Clocks or Banshees. It just has that feel that makes you want to go digging through your old records combing for that Alarm Clocks 7-inch with “No Reason To Complain” and “Yeah” on it. However, “Broken Up” kick a little more ass than either of those other songs, or any other song on this record, just by nature of being a little faster and slightly more aggressive. I can not think of enough superlatives to say about this song, so just do yourself a favor and listen. The last two songs, “Cherry Bomb” and “Go Give Yer Love Away”, are a little bit slower than the other two songs, but still essentially more of the same, still offering tons of energy despite the slower tempo. I look forward to seeing what this band has to offer in future releases, not to mention hunting down their past stuff and giving it a listen through.
Lecherous Gaze's self-titled EP is a quick, four-track, fifteen-minute rocker, melding stoner rock and punkish themes. Actually I hear a bit of the classic era of punk hidden in there; British acts like The Clash and The Sex Pistols. It's partially in the muddled, over-exposed vocals, and part in the quick guitar and drum rhythms.
The EP seems to be split into two stylistic types; the first half - "Phaze" and "Sold" - fall solidly into the punk/stoner crossover I mentioned above. The licks are catchy and plentiful, the vocals are simple and quick (if not easily understood), reminding me of the 80s heyday of punk. The songs kind of blend into each other, and as I'm not a connoisseur of punk, not the high point of the disc for my ears.
The second half of the album - "Graveyard" and "R 'n' R Lust" - strike a different set of chords, ones more in my direction. "Graveyard" is a bluesy riff-heavy track, where the vocals are more intelligible. It is slower then the previous (although for the last minute of the song it speeds up drastically into a fade out) and gets your head bobbing with the energy behind the guitars.
The last track of the EP, "R 'n' R Lust" (I'm going to say that's short for Rock 'n' Roll Lust, based on the lyrics), is an old-fashioned 60s/70s rocker. It does contain a hint of the punk themes found int he first half of the disc, but this makes the song come off more as psychobilly then anything else. It's a nice ending to the should-have-been-a-LP EP.
Lecherous Gaze's debut EP shows the act's skills and potential. The four-song release crosses into at least three of the sub-genres of stoner rock, with great success in each. While I am a fan of the blues and rock 'n roll tracks more so then the punk ones, every song has some degree of merit. I've got one more track from the band, a Danava/Earthless/Lecherous Gaze three-way split, that I may just have to break into to see what direction that song is. I will be looking forward to their debut full-length, as the group shows major promise.
Writing a perfect pop song is a lot harder than it may seem. Sure there are some formulas to rely on, some old tricks to fall back on. But if it was really that simple, that cookbook-ready to write a hit song, then everyone would do it. No, in truth, there's a tremendous skill in making the hard seem simple. Making the catchy seem routine.
Along those lines, The Queue have got it all lined up for their shot at radio domination. They got the looks, they got the chops, and yes, they have the songs. Turn it up, Turn me on is four perfect bite-sized morsels of pop perfection, each one with enough sweetness and meatiness to satisfy as rock and roll ear candy. "Turn it up, Turn me on," begins the boys quest for the airwaves, literally, with a plea to turn up the radio and blast that Queue music around the world. But without being too precious about it, the boys lace their plea with some truly tasty guitar chops and a non-stop feel good beat. Sean Michael Mulligan is a perfect lead singer for their sound; modern sounding enough to catch the ears of the indy, but completely devoid of the annoying whine that seems to be so damn prevalent these days. James Marshall Duich brings on some significant lead licks, while Mike Schiff and Aaron Bouslog make sure the song never lags. Hey, this ain't rocket science, it's pop music, but I'll tell, The Queue manage to make the whole thing seem effortless. This is the sort of feel good pop that makes the summer worthwhile.
While "Turn it Up," is the title track here, it's not my favorite song on the EP. I prefer the way-cool, downtempo, acoustic intro building to the explosive big hook chorus of "Settle Down Your Gun." The subdued vocals work real well here, then the band cranks it up a notch to full-on psych-garage-pop mayhem a la Oasis, or preferably Grand Atlantic. This is the song I'll be cranking this summer as I drive the convertible Ripple Ghia to the beach. "God Save The Queen" draws on a Beatles-esque opener before launching headlong into their "American Woman"-inspired guitar riff. Meaty and muscular. This is pop music I can get behind. A big lead guitar riff, a touch of garage-psych fuzz, and enough melody to keep the young ones singing for days. Reminds me of some of my favorite songs from the Morningstars. In a club, I'm sure this songs cooks.
"You Against Me," rounds the EP out with another Guess Who-vibed platter of gentle pop confectionery. A nice nod to the breadth these cats bring to the table.
Check em out at: The Queue.