Not frightened by the state of show business, Californian noiseniks return into the fray to observe the gloom.
There’s something incongruous about nihilists sneaking a Stevie Nicks tune into their platter’s context – but then, what can scream “punk” louder than incongruity and who can argue that “Little Lies” doesn’t go against the grain of the genre’s “pop” agenda? It’s par for the course for this ensemble’s new creative streak, their first in a decade, removing a “swan song” tag from 2011’s “Swan” and delivering the band’s first-ever cover, with much abandon, into the cauldron of their own compositions. Still steered by two founding members, stalwart warbler Scott Russo and volatile drummer Wade Youman, the American collective sculpted their seventh longplay as a vaguely concept work, the brief four-part cycle “Luna” scattered among other cuts, only to let bright melodies dispel the gloom around such a core.
More so, the resonating incongruity of rough riff and romantic atmosphere which form the anthemic “Discordia” – whose “Here we are: it’s almost over, we’re almost sober” refrain will welcome the listener into the group’s embrace – defies superficial expectations that could linger since their last advent and open a new view of their current sonic scenery, where the belligerent groove of “Beggars” seems familiar yet is fresh, the number’s soft chorus calling for a response. After the heavily pulsing, yet acoustically tinctured and reggae-tinged, “Ghosted” has upped the album’s allure, the artists hit the pogo dancefloor for Scott McLaughlin to unfold a guitar filigree on a few tracks, and exit into the brilliant, dub-smeared “Dark Seas” and the twangy, galloping “Murder Days” with a punky menacing vengeance to see Jonny Grill’s bass swing at the fore. Not surprisingly, the appearance of Cailin Russo, the vocalist’s daughter and Justin Bieber’s associate, on the aforesaid crunchy cover, shot through with a Scottish traditional theme, the heartfelt, barebone balladry of “Take Me” and the clanging psychedelia of the titular piece perfectly fit the eclectic, if coherent, flow.
And when the five veterans bid farewell via the hymnal “Chrome And Glass” the triumphal smoke may bring tears to many an eye, making the three recent re-recordings on the ensemble’s early classics rather needless – although “Celebration Song” isn’t out of place here, of course.