Veil Veil Vanish: Change in the Neon Light


RIYL: Pom Pom Diary, The Sounds, White Lies

Metaphor time. Take a chocolate cake, for instance. Even a bad one has some tasty bits, and a good one is always a treat, no matter how many times you’ve had it before. Sure you can feel like you’ve OD’d on too much chocolate, but give it a little time, and you’ll be back for more.

A lot of rock music genres are the same way. The musical elements that define them as a genre or style are the same elements that become quite familiar and overused, both appealing and repetitive all at once. The heavily ’80s-influenced post punk revival of the past decade fits this description to a “T”, as does the debut album by Veil Veil Vanish, Change in the Neon Light. Only seconds in, it is obvious where the San Fran quartet got their recipe; it is all Cure, spiced with Echo & the Bunnymen, sprinkled with early U2 and iced with Gene Loves Jezebel. There is nothing subtle here, and one could argue it is derivative, but that is only on the surface. Take one big bite and you’ll find that Change in the Neon Light is one helluva good chocolate cake.

The atmospheric qualities of the entire album are shimmering and driving, an album full of layered guitars and danceable percussion. The opening title track and final song “Wilderness” perfectly bookend the darkly emotive mood that fills the album. Keven Tecon’s vocals are plaintive but never whiny, while Robert Marzio deserves MVP accolades for signature drums that carry every song forward relentlessly. The album never lets up. From beginning to end there is not a weak track, and it really hits its stride in the second half with “Secondhand Daylight,” where Amy Rosenoff’s bass line and Cameron Ray’s guitars play off each other expressively, and “Detachment,” which serves up Siouxsie Sioux-like power. “It’s no fun if it doesn’t leave a mark,” they sing, and this album proves the point.

Veil Veil Vanish (a name just ridiculous enough to stick) is a surprisingly strong as a band on this debut, and it bodes well for the future. They haven’t drastically changed the recipe in creating Change in the Neon Light, but they definitely know how to cook. Their debut sets a high bar for the next course. Recommended. (Metropolis Records 2010)

Veil Veil Vanish MySpace page

  

The Black Hollies: Softly Towards the Light


RIYL: The Beatles, Happy Mondays, The Takeover UK

Take the late ’60s Beatles and other British blues/psychedelia, shoot it through with early ’90s Madchester energy, add a sprinkle of indie pop sensibility and you get groovy if none-to-deep third album by the Black Hollies. Depth isn’t really necessary for this kind of album, though. Softly Towards the Light is so indebted to its sources that every track seems immediately recognizable, as if you’d heard these songs long ago sitting in front of your parent’s old hi-fi system as a kid. This immediately begs the question, “Why not listen to the originals, then?” and that is where that those “sprinkles” of modern production and indie introspection provide just enough of something different to make it resonate with today. Much of this can be attributed to Justin Angelo Morley’s breathy vocals, which carry a forceful earnestness that gives Doors-esque lines like “Lead me to the fire burning in your soul” an innocence rather than lustful intent. That is something that seems to be missing on Softly Towards… as British Blues had a earthy carnal quality, and Madchester was hedonistic in many ways, the Black Hollies bring a lighter touch that provides an airy, nothing short of happy feeling that is rare in pop music. Happy is usually relegated to overproduced, kid-smiley, bubblegum pop and not considered appropriate for adults. Here, this positive energy works extremely well with the counterpoint of Nicholas Ferrante’s bombastic drumming. The danceable, get-your-feet-moving pleasure of the Black Hollies can be credited to being caught up in Ferrante’s powerful rhythms that manages to ground them just enough to keep the rest of the band from floating away. The power tracks on the album that bring all of this together are the outstanding “Gloomy Monday Morning” in the number two slot, and “Number Ten Girl” with its soulful, darkly trippy groove.

All in all, Softly Toward the Light is an excellent album by the New Jersey quartet, and demonstrates not just a fidelity toward their sources and craft, but a real passion for making these classic sounds their own true expression. Ernest Jenning Record Co.

The Black Hollies MySpace page

  

Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs

Umpteen albums into Yo La Tengo’s nearly quarter-century of existence, it seems that they’ve finally hit on a spectacular balance. No, Popular Songs is not a compilation (though the band’s actual ‘best of,’ Prisoners of Love, is somewhat less satisfying than Popular Songs), but it might as well be. It finds the band smoothing out some of its rough edges without totally abandoning their rough-and-tumble approach to indie rock. The opener in particular, “Here to Fall,” sweeps the listener into the air with a strings-and-keyboard arrangement that’ll stir up wet dreams of Paul Buckmaster making love to Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan’s interpersonal-musical union with muted fire and momentum. This could easily be the sound of Yo La blowing their wad way too early, but as it turns out, it neatly sets up the rest of the record to roll through ‘60s homages like the Farfisa fun-time “Periodically Double or Triple” and the Lovin’ Spoonful-esque “I’m On My Way” (try singing “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It” over the verses), and on into three lengthy drones that could easily be the perfect soundtrack to getting stoned. (Matador 2009)

Yo La Tengo MySpace page

  

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