What's missing from today's beige rock 'n' roll is swagger, that cocksure feeling that loud guitars and a fat back-beat — if done well, anyway — suggests youthful invincibility like no other music genre can. Hip-hop's cornered the market on the inner city stuff in recent years, but the British Invasion bands had swagger, and so did their '80s and '90s kin like the Stone Roses and Swervedriver. Over here, the Velvet Underground had it, and spawned a thousand bands since that tried tapping into it.
Happy to report, then, that the debut of this Auckland four-piece has swagger to spare. These 10 pulsating, roaring-guitar tracks are out in NZ on Flying Nun Records, home to Kiwi legends The Clean, The Bats and The Chills. These lads share the old roster's fondness for VU and '90s jangly power pop, but only as launch pads.
Matthew L. Paul sings with the sneering insouciance of Lou Reed, but the VU's slinky drones redline into near-motorik tempos here. On "I Don't Mind," blurred guitars and swirling organs envelop a rhythm that struts like the young ne'er do well who finds "another back-door waiting for me."
On "Mountain," overlapping guitar lines coil around the tempo like a tourniquet, creating real urgency — are you gonna make it up this mountain or pass out into the guitar fuzz? The instrumental "Arkestra" weaves sinewy bass and guitar lines around another high-velocity tempo just like the Feelies used to, only to burst into sections of blissed-out guitar effects a la Swervedriver.
There are breathers along the way, like "Country Rider," which adds a pinch of Western swing, and the slinky "Ages," which recalls VU's Loaded. The only time Ghost Waves goes overboard with the VU-love is on "Teenage Jesus," whose Reed-like street patter is at least offset by John Squire-like wa-wa guitar.
A better tribute is "Here She Comes," an original named after a Velvets' track. Rather than reprising the forlorn pacing and lovesick lyrics, the bands dial the lust up to 11, while the guitars wail like sirens — will that girl lead to the rocks or fireworks? With this debut, you get both, and it'll reinvigorate your love for rock 'n' roll.
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