Like the Sun
Are we done yet with ripping off British post-punk musicians wholesale, or are there a few more drops of juice we can squeeze out? That is precisely the thought running through the mind of this writer when listening to the 4-song EP Like the Sun from the Toronto quartet Programm, and it is surely no coincidence that the band’s black-and-white promo photo looks a lot like post-punk era trio Young Marble Giants’ Colossal Youth album cover.
The opening, title track channels a guitar-wash shoegazer Slowdive-school aesthetic with a throbbing bass line (Peter Hook homage? Check.) and artificial drums that suggest a chilly, clinical demeanor (Martin Hannett production style homage? Check.), with lead singer Jackie Game’s clear, unencumbered vocals.
This writer is a sucker for pretty female vocals, but on “Like the Sun,” clarity is a disadvantage; if you have awful lyrics like, “The dark horse rides on a sea of white / We’re diving into a bed of lust,” then good advice would be to obscure them in some way. The group’s second singer, Jacob Soma, steps into the spotlight on “We Barely Escaped,” but his singing style is a bit on the weak side.
That said, the production on this EP is good, with a proper balance, invoking the spirit of early Factory Records releases.
“ZeroZeroZero” combines synth chords with chiming guitar notes, and its earnestness is pretty steadfast throughout, ending with lamenting piano chords; one gets the feeling that the band intended to produce a more devastating or moving mood than that which is achieved here. Overall, Like the Sun is not a terrible release, but it just feels unnecessary.
These questions come to mind: “Yes, sure, you have awesome taste and brilliant influences, but with your own material, what are you bringing to the table? Are you using your talents fruitfully?”
(In the Red)
Try to imagine the sludge-metal band The Melvins playing Dungeons and Dragons on an interstellar spaceship, and you are maybe 20 percent of the way toward comprehending the fascinating, thoroughly rawkin’ jumble that is the Los Angeles quartet Wand.
The group’s second album, Golem, arrives just seven months after its fine debut full-length Ganglion Reef, carrying on with its heavy, psychedelic style but now with the keyboard action dialed down one notch. Initially, the most striking thing is the band’s intensity, but then it soon becomes apparent that it is far more nimble and twisty than one might have expected.
The track “Self Hypnosis in 3 Days” is the ideal introduction to the group, with the structural complexity of a prog-rock song distilled down to less than four minutes; it starts out fast and heavy, with meaty chords, but it also delivers pop hooks, punctured with brief, ear-splitting keyboard spazz-outs.
Chugging along at a saturated volume, the song dramatically curves into a short, lithe, faux-psych-folk (think Donovan) cool-down section before jumping back into the muddy battleground; there’s one last blast of energy before an exhilarating sprint toward the finish line. Why cram so many different parts into one song? Why not?
“Reaper Invert” features a crunchy, dense tone with just the right metal timbre, with flashes of ’70s hard-arena-rock electric-guitar wailing, and when the group isn’t a lumbering behemoth of fuzz, it delves into psychedelic pop (“Melted Rope”) or driving, Krautrock-inspired sci-fi-rock (“Cave In”) resembling a nuclear-powered drill that is making a beeline to the center of the Earth.
The penultimate “Planet Golem” begins a momentous build halfway through the song, resembling unstoppable, percolating hot aural lava, and the closing “The Draft” throws an early ’70s David Bowie vibe into the mix. Golem hits hard, but its eclectic nature and dexterity also make it fun, with enough turns to keep listeners stimulated and alert.