Music Go Music
Secretly Canadian / Thousand Tongues; 2014
When Daft Punk released Random Access Memories last year, the behavior of a few friends of mine shocked me. Normally, these folks possess rather good musical tastes and critical acumen, but upon hearing about how “disco” the record was supposed to sound, they declined to give it even the slightest chance. These people enjoyed the techno-dance-pop grooves of Homework and Discovery, but the mere mention of disco chased them far away from what I feel was a great record. It was if these friends had come straight from Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979, and it made me kinda sad, since I think that the French duo treated the genre with all due respect and diligence.
The entire situation makes me frustrated that I won’t be able to share Music Go Music with them, as I feel that this Los Angeles trio has redeemed the sounds of the ‘70s with flair to spare. Impressions is packed with bouncy, sultry, disco-pop goodness of the highest order. Obvious touchstones include ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, Chic, and the Bee Gees, but I should also mention the impact of Blondie, Ace of Base, and The Sounds, along with the Scandinavia electro sensibilities of Lindstrom and Todd Terje. And if that sounds like too many influences for the group to have its own identity, you’d be wrong: post-punk iciness has been melded with swathes of bold glam rock, and the soul purpose is to get people dancing.
Like a glorious siren’s song, Gala Bell intones lovelorn lyrics with her powerful alto, drawing you into the sensuous scenes she creates. Warm synth pads glisten and glow throughout, alternately serving as melodic drivers and ambience embellishers. I’m further enamored by the sexy guitar fills as they glide about the mix with smooth confidence. The rhythm section exudes strength, but never overpowers, as the lush bass work complements the bright, catchy drumming and pushes the music forward with ease and grace.
What makes the 9 songs of Impressions so resplendent in my opinion are how big, loping grooves fuel what are basic, crisp pop songs at their most fundamental. Sure, standout cuts like “Inferno,” “Part of Me,” “Tell Me How It Feels,” and “I’ll Never Get Over You” are sublimely inspired by disco and funk from the ‘70s, but they don’t feel derivative, retrograde, or dealing in rank nostalgia. Simply put, Music Go Music wields equal parts big party ambitions, intricate craftsmanship, and vintage heartsick lyricism to create excellent dance-floor-filling tunes.
For all the punk, hardcore, and metal I tend to enjoy, it’s been years since I actively listened to much straight-ahead hard rock. It just fell out of favor in my musical palate at some point in the last decade or so, and it never made its way back into rotation in my ears. Part of that is because I thought much of the music was too derivative for my tastes, and part of it was because I was focused on educating myself in the histories of other genres. So, with this admission of a hole in my musical education, I can only hope that it can be filled with the music of bands like walkingbicycles.
Throughout the whole of To Him That Wills the Way, the Chicago quartet delivers glowering, doomy psych rock that is heavy and claustrophobic in its intensity. The band first hurls itself at the listener, pulls back into deep introspection, and then repeats the cycle several times - all to stellar effect. The simmering mania of Black Sabbath rears its head early and often, but while this is tempered by the robust gloom of early Tool, a female-fronted fury that culls from Siouxie Sioux, Ume, Heartless Bastards, Opeth, and Warpaint drives home a series of powerful blows.
It all starts with the big alto of Jocelyn Summers, as her vocals rage, seethe, and simmer with passion and palpable longing. From there, Deric Criss pounds and wails on his drums with a barely contained fervor, yet he never sends the band swaying off course. Jason Leather’s bass presence ripples with good oomph and depth, doing so without playing root notes that could have settled the band into a boring rut. The guitar work of Julius Moriarty features the right blend of fuzz, snarl, shrieks, and overdrive, which serves to fill out the band’s sound with some sharp edges.
This is what I want to hear from high quality hard rock - aggression, moodiness, and surly angst that doesn’t cater to cliches and lowest common denominators. Tracks like “Eyesore,” “Faster Than Light,” “The Messenger,” and “Boethius” balance breakneck tempos with eerie reserve, giving the listener much more to enjoy and engage than the usual fare. To my ears, To Him That Wills the Way displays a keen understanding of nuance and texture, instead of relying upon a full-frontal assault of the senses. Thanks to the music of Walking Bicycles, I now have a reliable map that can help me explor a genre I’ve ignored for too long.