Monday, May 23, 2011

REVIEW: Restorations - Restorations

Philadelphia has given us some of the most enjoyable, if underappreciated, rock music of the last 10 years or so. Think about it, there's Marah, Living Things, Dr. Dog, Free Energy, you could probably think of another quick dozen or more off the top of your head. These are bands that collectively have made and are continuing to make great record after great record, and yet relative to their considerable artistic merit, they remain frustratingly obscure. How about a little more frustration?

The Philly band Restorations (if you want to google them without getting every home improvement site out there, try "restorations the band") recently released their self-titled debut full-length, and it's a shoo-in for my year-end top 10. At just under 35 minutes and 8 songs, it's really a tremendous album, with big, indulgent song structures and sheets of beautiful sound.

Consider, for example, "Neighborhood Song", with its crashing bar chords giving way to a melancholy verse about remembering your childhood as you grow older (I think). The song ends with a pounding bassline, over which Jon Loudon's shopworn voice sings, "The song of the neighborhood/Sung like the song of the world" and then all sonic hell breaks loose for another minute, and then slows down before it breaks loose again for another couple of minutes. You'd think a band these days couldn't get away with a lyric like that, but it works so perfectly here. Listen to it, and it'll make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

People who hybridize music tend to be insufferable, like a bunch of idiots dressed in black standing around talking about what they taste in a glass of wine (It's peppery! I taste marbles!) but dammit I'm going to do it. Rocksteady and I are huge fans of the now defunct Brooklyn band Pela, and I think there's a good bit of that genius flowing through these songs. So maybe Restorations is like Pela with a good deal more noise heaped on top (which is never a bad thing). That noise has connections to shoegaze acts like Catherine Wheel. Loudon's hoarse vocals do remind me of Rob Dickinson at times. These songs also will make you think at times of some of the Scottish bands that make melodic noise, like Frightened Rabbit or Twilight Sad, or just melodic music, like, I swear, Glasgow's Blue Nile (mainly because the vocal melodies at times sound like Paul Buchanan).

In the end, though, it's really an American sounding record, with American excesses that make it one of those off-the-radar albums you shouldn't miss. Here's another fantastic tune, "Broken Vacuum", with a beautiful, chiming lead that, if you're old enough, will resurrect dim memories of the Alarm or Wire Train.

For all the talk of great vocals and guitars and bass, if anyone gave me a Heisman vote on this album I'd give it to the drummer (I'll edit if I'm able to figure out his name -- I did, courtesy of the Restorations page at the site of their record label - Tiny Engines. Oh, his name is Carlin Brown). In this wonderfully produced record, drums are put front and center, and are a propulsive, emotive force. In the dozens of dramatic changes in the songs, it's the drums that lead the way, most notably in the middle of the second track, "West River." There's not a lot of quality sounding live stuff up yet on youtube, but here's a pretty decent (and criminally underviewed) version of that tune.

Bands this great deserve your support. Here's the Bandcamp page where I was able to download this excellent album cheaply and without adult supervision.

Restorations Bandcamp page

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