alaska! : Rescue Through Tomahawk

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When Treble’s aquamarine design was first uploaded into the gaping abyss we call “the Web,” our Album of the Week feature was crowned with its first candidate: Alaska!’s Emotions, a little record that was big on ideas, bursting at the seams with enormous washes of sound and melody. An underrated gem of 2003, Emotions was a magnificent and mighty disc that got lost among the great shuffle of Broken Social Scenes and Raptures. Those of us who had heard it, however, treasured it, counting tracks like “The Western Shore” and “Rust and Cyanide” among our favorites of the year. Ah, those were the days.

Chalk it up to the strength of the original, but something had me almost unnaturally eager to hear the LA trio’s latest, Rescue Through Tomahawk. The band had been touring on the songs for a year or so, and I had heard many of them before. But one listen, as you could probably guess, wasn’t enough to have me memorizing every little detail. But I did remember that the songs sounded more straightforward and rocking. Even a little edgier, I suppose. And to listen to Rescue, my initial reaction hasn’t been shaken. Rescue finds Alaska! playing a more scratchy, jagged post-punk influenced version of their previous style, eschewing the sprawling arrangements for serpentine riffs and an almost classic rock-like swagger.

Listen to frontman Imaad Wasif’s delivery on a track like “Real Is Your Control,” a gloriously funky and psychedelic track, he seems more confident and confrontational before, letting out his more aggressive side on what was an otherwise controlled sonic experience. Yep, things have changed in Alaska.

“The Fury of Trees,” a guitar-heavy rocker, opens the set, revealing the inner Sabbath within the band, though “Krystal Korpse” could have been an early period U2 track, before the Edge had developed his long-term relationship with digital delay. “Kiss You,” however, is a straightforward power pop song, the likes of which the band’s good buddy Lou Barlow played in Sebadoh a decade back.

Later on in the album, Alaska! attempt two eight-plus minute tracks that sprawl across more epic territory, not quite the likes of Emotions, though not far from Led Zeppelin IV. “Through The Years” trudges along at a tortoise’s pace, as feedback echoes and an eerie farfisa whines in the background. “The Light,” by comparison, is less Page-Plant in its introduction and far more Reed-Cale. The glockenspiel that chimes behind Wasif’s baritone lull is immediately reminiscent of “Sunday Morning,” though at around 1:26, the song takes a turn for the rocking. Still, “C the Shape” is probably the best track on the album, and it’s about five minutes shorter than each of these behemoths.

Alaska! followed their Emotions album with a different sort of album altogether. It’s not a complete 360, but it’s more bare, more raw and rougher around the edges. It may not bless us with another “Rust and Cyanide,” but it’s a solid album on the whole and it’ll rock you. I’m sold.

Similar albums:
Sebadoh – Harmacy
Dinosaur Jr. – Bug
No. 2 – What Does Good Luck Bring?

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