It’s always disappointing when a great artist stagnates to the point of tedium. That a band has the ability to shift and explore new sounds is generally seen as a boon – that is, unless such a shift is so major we lose the essence of what made the band so great in the first place. On their latest offering Crush, Abe Vigoda presents an interesting challenge in that they are not so much exploring new sounds, insomuch as they are delving into sounds that are new to them. That in and of itself is still commendable – Crush is poles apart from its predecessor, 2008’s Skeleton – but the band does risk losing some of what made them unique on that record. Skeleton’s skuzzy tropical punk was warm and original; it was the sound of an up and coming band with a distinct style. In contrast, Crush‘s icy synths travel through territory that’s already been explored in great detail, especially over the last eight post-Interpol years. Luckily, the band seems well versed in the ways of post-punk and cold wave and they know what it takes to make this kind of detail-oriented music flourish.
I don’t want to understate that last point. Abe Vigoda turns out to have a knack for stirring intricacies that keep you on your toes throughout the entire record. They squeeze an entire album’s worth of sounds into the opening track alone. The familiar mix of walled shoegazer guitars and sweeping new wave keys suggests that they have been listening to a lot of NME approved buzz bands. Or perhaps they have simply rediscovered their old Echo and Bunnymen and My Bloody Valentine records. In either case, the detached synths in songs like “Dream of My Love (Chasing After You)” and “We Have to Mask” highlight the band’s new sense of drama well. “Repeating Angel” is frozen in the kind of permafrost Magazine committed to tape on Secondhand Daylight. On their previous recordings, the wall of ecstatic noise practically drowned the vocals; on Crush, they’re mixed up front and center. Singer Michael Vidal takes on a wobbly baritone reminiscent of Paul Haig of Josef K or Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice and occasionally, as on the aforementioned “Repeated Angel,” adopts a Bowie-esque croon.
Some of the band’s old charms are still intact in some form or another. The music here is as frantic as it was on Skeleton, but this time around their kinetic energy has been transferred to chilling spidery guitar lines and arctic sequenced keys. Crush is certainly a satisfying listen, but one gets the feeling that the band has the potential to take this new direction into more interesting places on future records. Although knowing Abe Vigoda, it’s more likely we’ll find the band exploring some altogether dissimilar territory next time around. Either way, it will likely still be worth listening to.
Magazine – Secondhand Daylight
Crocodiles – Sleep Forever
Fad Gadget – Under the Flag