Canadian indie rock band the Velveteins return with their first full length album following last year’s EP ‘A Hot Second with the Velveteins’. Although there is little development in a singular sound and style from their 2016 output, it is a very listenable to selection of songs about waves and getting waved with moments of uncontrollable chaos.
Album opener ‘First Wave’ begins tired and washed out. The Arto Lindsay jazz chords mixed with Spencer Morphy’s hushed vocals (“five to thee, quiet street, all candles have burnt down”) create the sense of a day ending at an album’s beginning: it’s ‘Closing Time’ if Tom Waits was a surfer. An overall concept is created as the album’s final track ‘Slow Wave (Outro)’ shares chords and lyrics with the intro and track one fades seamlessly into track two. This doesn’t occur on subsequent songs, but then again, the Beatles weren’t able to sustain their concept for all of ‘Sergeant Pepper’s’.
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However, there is an overall theme on this album and that is of a band taking an idea, style or genre, such as the concept album, and using and experimenting with it, but not fully committing. This can occur within songs, such as ‘Strange Side of the Street’ which mixes a chirpy Vaccines guitar riff intro and verse with psychedelic effects and a slowed down chorus that will have you nodding like Churchill the Dog.
Juicy juxtapositions also occur on the album’s best track ‘Midnight Surf’. Its unoriginal opening leaves you dismissing it in seconds, electronic drums and synths add intrigue but at the midpoint the track transitions from pop to pomp. Morphy screams, voice cracking over no holds barred noise. Some tracks lack this shot in the arm and so remain as bland as sand. ‘Daydreams’ washes over you with Vampire Weekend pop rock and ‘the riff you swear you’ve heard before’ on ‘Don’t Yah Feel Better?’ threatens the threat of the previous track.
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The Velveteins are just as adept with control as they are with carnage, as shown on the steady strumming and piano chords of ‘Spanish Wine’. Its understated guitar work, vocal harmonies and cliched clinking glasses lull you into a false sense of security. But like the Libertines at their most controlled you get the sense that chaos is just one chord away. Finally, like ‘Hanging from the Ceiling’ on the 2016 EP, ‘All Night Baby’ fiddles fifties pop with a modern twist; it is one of the most interesting stylistic shifts on the album and probably deserves more than one song.
Bands with either ‘velvet’ or ‘underground’ in their names always arouse the suspicion that they are nothing new. The Velveteins’ name may suggest this, but this album with its mixture of concept, control and chaos shows a band who know their influences but who are ‘indie’ enough to stand apart from them. This is effectively the debut of a band still finding their voice and rather than being the genre, ‘indie rock’ are the two poles between which this band oscillate. At times it is all too predictable and poppy but at others it gives us hope for great things to come.
‘Slow Wave’ is out now via Fierce Panda.