History repeats itself, or more specifically, moves in endless cycles. Since the end of the 00s, indie music has been obsessed with electronica and synth pop, the kind that was popular at the beginning of the 80s. Of course, as past events will lead us to believe, soon approaching is a wave of awkwardly noisy alternative rock. There have been rumbles (the emergence of Yuck, the heavy-hitting sounds of Cloud Nothings), but nothing to assume an all-out assault. Witness Speedy Ortiz. Having previously released an album (2013’s Major Arcana), their first real promise showed in last year’s Real Hair EP and its delightfully odd lead track ‘American Horror’. Will Speedy Ortiz be joining the upcoming alt-rock charge, or be trampled underfoot?
Straight away, the influences clearly present themselves in sub-two minute introduction track ‘Good Neck’: the awkward off-centre guitar play of Pavement, the quiet loud dynamics of Pixies, the obscure instrumentation of Nirvana’s ‘Drain You’. Vocals like a more tuneful Kim Deal in a singsong manner. Overall, the band seem to be playing different songs from each other while also coalescing into a jumbled if not displeasing whole.
First track released from the album, ‘The Graduates’, proves a great calling card of a single as it includes the anthemic-for-a-slacker chorus declaration “I was the best/at being second place” amid the obtuse scuzzy chaos. Other tracks of note include ‘Homonovus’, with its creepingly slow start giving way to a staccato stabbing second half, the sunny alt-girl group sugar pop rush of ‘Swell Content’ and the singularly interesting ‘Puffer’. Built on a grungified RnB bass groove the track, featuring lurching Cramps-y guitars and almost sexy “yeah yeah yeah”s, ‘Puffer’ sounds like a Tarantino-directed desert lapdance turned murder. A definite highlight.
While there are some great songs on Foil Deer, the album is weighted down by the uninspiring B-side. Being mellower and more single minded than the first half, with several plodding slogs exceeding four minutes in length that only compound the tedium. ‘Zig’ particularly seems to take great joy in this drawn out nothingness. If they were to make some cuts, they would have a stellar seven track mini-album, but as it is, the album is just alright. Maybe the problem is expectations: after the vitality and power of last year’s ‘American Horror’ great things were to be expected. Just goes to show that a bunch of jumbled similar influences is not enough to make a Nevermind.