It has been said to death at this point, but I find it pretty astounding that no other band decided to call itself Weed before this group of Vancouver shoegazers. Their brand of warped, sludgy guitar music is starting to catch on in a big way. After releasing their debut full-length, Deserve on Couple Skate, the group toured with hardcore legends Fucked Up and were offered a deal with Captured Tracks, which they turned down (I feel like CT is rapidly becoming the New York Yankees of indie labels). Now signed to Lefse, a subsidiary of Fat Possum, the four-piece has returned with Running Back, a sophomore LP that expands upon the strengths of their debut. With clearer production and stronger melodies, Weed has focused their sound, and the results are often impressive.
Running Back kicks off with a healthy dose of fuzz and feedback before the band launches into “Muscles,” an infectious, whammy-heavy tune that is fairly representative of Weed’s sound — loud guitars, buried vocals, angular chords, and punk energy. It is a sound often associated with the Pacific Northwest, specifically the Sub Pop releases of the late ’80s, but there’s a lot of Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine in Weed’s guitars, too. It is a nice blend, refreshingly heavy and meaty at a time in indie rock where chorus and clean guitar tones are king, without losing any tunefulness along the way.
Elsewhere, Weed readily displays their knack for hooky songcraft. Anthemic choruses abound. Lead single “Thousand Pounds,” in particular, has an especially memorable hook that (I believe) would work both at a basement show and in a football stadium. Album cut “Meet Me With Ease” is similarly compelling, pairing confessional lyrics with a propulsive, punishing backing track. It works on multiple levels, and will likely please fans from disparate musical backgrounds.
Unfortunately, Weed’s music grows tiresome after a few songs. Their approach to songwriting changes very little from track to track, and the production is lacking in dynamics, a crucial part of the success of the Sub Pop sound they draw from. The constant guitar assault, compounded by the lack of variety in composition, takes its toll. Even at ten tracks, Running Back feels long. Weed probably could have cut four of the songs and released the rest as an EP. Despite this, the album has some real highlights that leave me excited to hear more — hopefully, their next release will take a few more risks, but maintain the progress they have made on this one.