The Mermaids: Sink or Swim?
The Mermaids are a band with a distinctive vision. The good side to having such a vision is that it will keep the band focused. The bad side to having such a vision is that it might inhibit growth if it's hewed to too faithfully. The vision itself is what gives the band an idenity - that of musicians immersed in 50s nostalgia and yearning to mate these sunny sounds to grimier garage and surf-punk sensibilities. Indeed, the sonic persona of the Mermaids is sprightly beach-pop set to a decidedly postmodern clang and clamor. The band's debut, Tropsicle, captures this marriage of moods beautifully, and yet one wonders how restrictive this impetus will ultimately be. Will the Mermaids sink under the weight of their own ideals, or will their pristine vision enable them to swim more buoyantly?
The Clap: Static-tastic
The Clap is what the Black Lips might have become if they'd adhered to the vintage vibe and scratched-record aesthetic that pervades Let it Bloom, and stretched it to freakish extremes. The Clap's EP, Spider House 5, is crispy, crunchy Southern-fried static cocooning crazily catchy tunes. On the one hand, it can be frustrating to discern the music contained within the crackle, but on the other hand, it's a charming challenge. Be forewarned, though, that no amount of aural struggle will yield any semblance of lyrical clarity.
This is not the psychedelic fuzz of 80s bands like Jesus and Mary Chain or the dreamy distortion of 90s shoegaze bands, however; it's got far rougher textures than that. With JAMC the distortion was interwoven with the songs, whereas with The Clap it's a patented effect that could be eschewed in favor of a more lucid listening experience, although I doubt that is what fans would covet. The band has managed to sculpt a raw eloquence from the amorphous distortion that distinguishes it from being a mere gimmicky trick. Listening to The Clap is akin to looking through a dirt-streaked, scratch-marked window at some very beautiful paintings.
For as ear-scraping as the hiss and static can be, they mask quite sophisticated songwriting. The songs underneath the spit-smeared surface are polished gems, and I only lament that there are so few. I eagerly anticipate lengthier releases from this band composed of two Mermaid members, a brilliant female bassist, and drummer whose feisty thumping provides a solid anchor to these quirky tunes.
Abby GoGo: Abby NoNo?
I am, frankly, underwhelmed by Abby GoGo. I wanted to like them in spite of their goofy name, because I had heard positive things about their sound. I have given their CD several swirls and have enjoyed a few songs quite a bit, but at the end of the day, I am not compelled to repeatedly return to the album. It's competently executed and some of the songs have decent hooks, and one does get the sense that the band rocks live. But maybe it's the production that fails to showcase more dynamic sonics, or maybe it's the band's failure to rewrite the post-punk/psychedelic rock template they seem enamored of. There is just nothing novel to grasp onto, and ultimately it's a lackluster listen. Too bad, beacuse in this town of sizzling songs, I was really hoping to be blown away, or at least pleasantly pleased. As it is, I'm just bored.