The Union Jack is flying over the state of Washington. Gov. Gary Locke has morphed into Margaret Thatcher. And the Puget Sound is flowing into the English Channel. The Pacific Northwest is beginning to look a lot like Merry Old, and music has everything to do with it.
The current crop of bands out of Seattle and Portland today suggest a serious case of Anglophilia. The Shins do their part, playing the region’s Echo and the Bunnymen, whilst the Postal Service take the reins as the new New Order. The latest Hint Hint record suggests angrier Cure records, but the part of The Smiths in Great Britain’s American revival is being played by Aveo.
Aveo’s latest, Battery is the product of three musicians who must have worn out several copies of The Queen is Dead. Vocalist William Wilson has often been compared to Gene’s Martin Rossiter, a known Morrissey soundalike. But on this record, Wilson is Johnny Marr as well. The production on Battery, thanks to Phil Ek, is drenched in chorus and reverb — the perfect sonic cocktail for a Mancunian homage. Songs range from melancholy to dreary, which nicely complement the London fog. Or the Seattle rain. One of the two.
Wilson’s lyrics are characteristically glum, dealing largely with the dark side of human nature, as heard in “The Idiot on the Bike”: “Ma, it’s getting much colder here in the world/but, oh, the people are too.” Wilson’s sprightly riffs and Jeff MacIsaac’s bouncy rhythms add a fun side to the song, to counterbalance the gloominess. And the album closer, “3:33/ The Insomnia Waltz” ends things on a lighter note, with some carnivalesque melodies played on piano and glockenspiel.
The Smiths aren’t the only English band whose influence shows up on Battery, however. “The Desert and the Great Divorce” suggests Disintegration-era Cure, as the lead riff seems to have been borrowed directly from “Lovesong.”
Aveo’s music isn’t a cheap knock-off, however. In spite of a strong Anglo-influence on the album, the songs on Battery are strong enough to stand on their own. “Idiot,” “3:33” and “Desert” are standouts by anyone’s standards. They just happen to come of as more English than American.
The heyday of British post-punk is long behind us, but the sound has carried on to the hipster capital of the western United States. To paraphrase two of England’s best, London is Dead! Viva Sea-Tac!
Gene – Olympian
764-Hero – Get Here and Stay
The Cure – Disintegration
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.