While this record may alienate the pop orientated audience, it proves the band don’t want to rely on formulas; even the winning ones.
“I like the play between the two,” Ryan Lindsey explained a few months ago as he pulled out John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Double Fantasy’ for a Records In My Life interview. The choice isn’t too surprising; there’s always been a level of polished production and pop sensibility underscoring the punk-enthused attitude and magnetism of BRONCHO’s recordings. But whether the frontman of these new-wave influenced Oklahoma garage-rockers is referencing Lennon and Yoko’s title or not, ‘Double Vanity’ seems to be inverting the aspect of musical dialogue.
It’s at once introverted, and outwardly hedonistic and audacious. A raw swaggering aesthetic is embraced for much of the record, seeming less a product of Lindsey’s musical influences than an indulgent and searching look in the mirror. Any solo-Lennon styled or pop influenced elements are mostly thrown out as the band define the sound by their own terms, instead of pandering to the instant ear-pleasing catchiness which popularised their semi-breakthroughs ‘Class Historian’ and ‘Try Me Out Sometime’.
‘Double Vanity’ is leaner. The production is almost lo-fi, as grungy guitars and primal garage-y drumbeats form the backdrop for Lindsey’s warbling reverb-soaked vocal drawl. The easy stomp and muted guitar chug of ‘Senora Borealis’ and ‘New Karma’, insistent proto-punk riffing of ‘Speed Demon’, and pulsing rhythm of album opener ‘All Time’ set the agenda with a sharp sense of intent and attitude.
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There are more melodic and airy moments buried here and there, though, and sometimes the layers of reverb create an expansive wall of sound, despite the stripped back instrumentation. The gritty guitar strum of ‘Two Step’ is lost beneath a wash of overlapping phrases and harmonies, while ‘I Know You’ is flooded with a warping guitar echo.
Sexual allusions have always been part of BRONCHO’s character, but they’ve also been obscured here. Both ‘Jenny Loves Jenae’ and the lead single ‘Fantasy Boys’ hint at homo-eroticism, while the more straightforward lyrics are often lost in the mix or in Lindsey’s tweaking vocal slurs.
Among the promiscuities of their previous records, though, ‘Double Vanity’ is BRONCHO’s ultimate narcissism; a sort of rock’n’roll “picture of Dorian Gray” – an immaculately captured sound-bite of swagger and clarity granting the band to live on and explore other avenues of sonic experience and ambiguously sexual lyricism. While this record may alienate the pop orientated audience, it proves the band don’t want to rely on formulas; even the winning ones.
‘Double Vanity’ is out now via Dine Alone Records
This BRONCHO article was written by Tadgh Shiels, a GIGsoup contributor