Post-hardcore isn’t a particularly sexy genre. Distorted guitars and aggressive mathematical rhythms tend not to seduce the listener in the same way that, say, a slow bassline or the gentle roll of a Rhodes piano might. Nonetheless, Girls Against Boys were always pegged as a `sexy’ band, in spite of sounding more like Fugazi than Barry White. While, musically, their double-bassed attack might have something to do with it, chances are that sexiness boiled down to one element—Scott McCloud’s raspy sing-speak. And though GvsB may not have been an altogether sexy band, that bedroom voice brought them a step closer than The Jesus Lizard could have ever come (and if you’re doing the nasty to “The Monkey Trick,” you’re a special kind of psychopath).
McCloud’s new project, Paramount Styles, seems to bring his smoky pipes closer to a sexy kind of genre than ever before. In essence, Paramount Styles are a low-key indie rock group, in the vein of Sparklehorse or Tindersticks, but with a special, unique distinction, that being McCloud. Yet even in a less aggressive mode than McCloud’s other outfit, Paramount Styles has a particularly urgent approach, which could also be thanks in part to Alexis Fleisig, who also plays drums with Girls Against Boys.
Though the abrasive punk rock sound of McCloud’s past may be absent here, his habit of running words together is apparent in the title of “Alleyesareonyounowmypet.” The song has an urgency about it, a catchy and powerful sort of accessibility, particularly in the sharp chorus riffs, making it a clear choice for a single, were Paramount Styles to choose to release one. “Paradise Happens” is much more laid back in approach, built on a spare framework of brushed drums and acoustic guitar. “Hollywood Tales 2” has a similar feel, but with a more commanding presence. The riffs are choppy and bright, while McCloud’s voice is backed with just the right amount of reverb. On “One Last Surprise,” the group even veers into a piano-led, Southern gothic style songcraft, which a pleasant surprise, to say the least. And the build-up of “These Starry Eyes” reveals the extent of McCloud’s songwriting maturity, a clear leap toward nuanced pop music with dark undertones.
Paramount Styles aren’t particularly sexy in the same way that Usher is, but then again, he comes with more drama than McCloud. Failure American Style is red wine and cigarettes, dim lightbulbs and more red wine. But it’s also good pop music. There’s nothing sexier than that.
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.