Released: September 3rd, 2013
Label: Western Vinyl
Finally, the 90’s are back. After a decade of 80’s synth-pop revivalism, the indie universe is now starting to dabble once again in Clinton-era guitar rock. Grooms, from Brooklyn, NY, offer us a glimpse both into the past and future of indie rock on Infinity Caller, their third album, showing us that guitars are still a vital medium for expression and experimentation. Singer and guitarist Travis Johnson’s day job building effects pedals for Death By Audio is shown in the album’s meticulously layered sound, witch often casts a hazy, shimmering cloud of audio damaged guitar soundscapes over a warm, inviting bed of arpeggios and riffs. The result is a textured and complex tapestry, something that should be listened to through headphones.
Still, despite this element of exploration, the effect of Groom’s music is always refreshingly immediate: the drums are punchy and driving, and Johnson’s vocals are up-front and strong, a convincing medium for his intriguing, often inscrutable lyrics. His wordplay sometimes channels Stephen Malkmus’s blasé flippancy (one song is addressed to “Susie Jo with polio,” another calls out a “bratty drummer”), elsewhere recalling Olympia-style twee with references to Volvos and an entire song about a librarian. But even with these touchstones, Johnson’s writing presents an uncommonly distinct voice, populating Grooms’ songs with a cornucopia of funny, memorable lines and images (some samples: “I’m made of milk/I’m made of meat/I’m made of laughs/I’m made of sweets;” ”’Whatever’” was the name of the passive-est one;” “You stay in the entrance and pace like a monk/and you mope like a punk”).
Anyone hankering for a new Pavement record will find some solace in catchy standouts like “Play” and “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which would sound perfectly at home on a mixtape nestled between Archers of Loaf and Polvo. Other highlights include “Iskra Goodbye,” with lead vocals by bass player Emily Ambrosio, whose voice is sadly underused throughout the album, and “Something I Learned Today,” a dreamy, spaced-out reworking of the lead track from Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade. In a climate where indie rock tends toward cool distance, Grooms offers a refreshingly warm antidote, rooted in the past and reaching out into the future.
Review by John McAlmon