Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: Otherly Love's "Hardly Groaner" Bounces Between Rock's Stranger Sides

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 9:30 AM

Last weekend local quartet Otherly Love released their third album in a four-year span. Stripping away some of the twangy country intros and crooning doo-wop vocal gimmicks from 2012's "5+5=X," the band has carved out a place for their latest release "Hardly Groaner" that looks much more like '70s rock sensibilities than their previous '50s and '60s nostalgia. 

Kicking off the ten-song list, "Sleep" offers a bright falsetto similar to Danielson's vocal style but backed by instrumentation that can be classified no more succinctly than classic rock. It's much more straightforward than the Otherly Love of the past and transitions into "Driver"'s jazzy intro that seems intentionally stumbly and clumsy. It is, indeed, the kind of song you want to put on in the car and hit the gas pedal, headbanging a little along the way to the swelling drum hits.

From there, the cassette's first side doesn't stay put stylistically and that's okay. Each song has about three distinct sections at least, transitioning from swayable slower paces to more frantic and straightforward punk moments.

"Master" has the first moments of the distinguishable prog rock style the band seems to have picked up, but it becomes all too unavoidable on the tape's B side, which kicks off with "Don't Look Bad." The sixth song has hints of King Crimson but with a much tighter and more pop viable composition. When the title's namesake is sung, you can almost hear where a horn section would fit in perfectly behind it all. Here, the vocals go from the breathy, high pitched sing-a-long wail of the rest of the album to a more intent and honest sound.

Interestingly, the band isn't just successfully reviving '70s art rock or prog in a not too obtrusive way. "Swivel Man" is a heap of feedback and fuzz and mumbling lyrics that somehow finds its place amidst the other aural motifs. And consider the guitar solo on that first song "Sleep," which is somewhere between squealing '80s hair metal and more modern Eagles of Death Metal. "Heart Attach" ends the album switching back and forth between pretty overt punk that might do what the name suggests if you've had too much coffee before listening to it, but, at the drop of a hat, mellows back out.

As a whole, "Hardly Groaner" seems to beg listeners to dance with up-tempo beats and an endless stream of noodling guitar riffs that the band seems at least acutely aware of stylistically, as they've named a song "Noodle." It's a fun album but not in a pandering, dance pop way. It's funny and goofy but it should still be taken seriously, as the group clearly has the chops to back up taking on a stripped down redux of prog with a good dose of punk blended in. 

You can pick up your cassette copy of Otherly Love's "Hardly Groaner" now at Old Paint Records, located at 201 N. Court Ave. If you've misplaced your Walkman, you can also download the new album via the band's Bandcamp page.

Track List:
"From Me to You"
"Fire Alarm"
"Don't Look Bad"
"Swivle Man"
"Heart Attach"

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