Fresh Stream

Grooms – Infinity Caller


Note: the majority of this review is taken from my 2013 Year-End List but I thought that it deserved its own post <3 Chris

NYC’s Grooms have been crafting intricate but catchy ‘art-damaged’ rock since around 2003, and in that time they’ve gone past what Sonic Youth aimed for when they made Rather Ripped; that is, succinct pop-informed indie rock with a tendency for noisy outbursts. 2011’s Prom front-to-back is one of the strongest records I’ve heard in years, an intricate and beautiful work of art for anyone in love with guitars. From my talks with vocalist/guitarist Travis Johnson, it was a labor of love – with an emphasis on labor. With Infinity Caller (out on Western Vinyl), they’ve decided to deliver a more immediate and almost utilitarian effort. Of course, nothing that Grooms does is actually that simple.

Grooms simultaneously succeed at being both mysterious and intimate, surreal and visceral, emotional and cryptic. In ‘Completely’, they play a fairly straightforward noise-rock song that climaxes into a surreal guitar lift-off that leaves the listener disoriented and awe-struck. The thoughtful rhythms shift erratically while remaining contained in succinct pop song forms and the nuanced production lends a noisy tinge to every snare hit and cymbal splash. Johnson’s lyrics are playful and poetic, enigmatic and often beautifully dreamlike. ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ is one of the most uplifting, goosebumps-raising rock songs I’ve heard in a great while. Above everything, each song has a distinct identity and immediacy that feels comforting while the subtle intricacies of background synths, dreamy vocals courtesy of bassist and main song-collaborator Emily Ambruso, and various sonic accents put the songs into more surreal territory. Ambruso also stars in one of the most buoyant and enjoyable tracks on the record, ‘Iskra Goodbye’, an infectious pop gem that eventually explodes into a triumphant fuzzy guitar solo. The title track even hints at hip-hop in its drumbeat without sounding out-of-place; in fact, it’s one of the catchiest songs on the record. This is music that moved Michael Azzerad to invite Grooms to play the Our Band Could Be Your Life Anniversary show in New York. They decided to include their dreamy interpretation of ‘Something I Learned Today’ just for good measure. I’m always wide-eyed in anticipation for what Grooms decide to do next.

P.S. Speaking of Azzerad, Sadie from Speedy Ortiz wrote a review of this album on his new review website.

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