On their third album, Reptaliens have made a number of tweaks to their approach, reining in a few of their more expansive, spacey habits in favor of a psych-pop sound that is founded on solidly built, competently-delivered hooks. With Cole and Bambi Browning writing and performing solo due to the assorted Covid-19 lockdowns of recent years, Multiverse quickly jags away from the limitless possibilities suggested by its title and settles instead for something more simple: what if, somewhere out there, there’s a version of Reptaliens that didn’t get really into synths and sci-fi?
When placed next to the Oregon group’s earlier records, FM-2030 (2017) and Valis (2019), Multiverse is outwardly more grounded, favoring clean guitar lines and complementary washes of reverb over anything more obviously synthetic. The set dressing suits this batch of songs, which generally stand up well to the greater scrutiny placed on their construction by this choice.
“Like a Dog,” “Take It” and the standout “Don’t Wait For Me” are all satisfying, floaty jams, but there are also passages here that feel oven-ready for passive consumption. It’s a difficult line to walk, with Reptaliens clearly keen to avoid anything too abrasive lest it crush the overall vibe, and there are times when they slip.
That reality means that some excellent songs, see the late album highlight “I Can’t Hide,” are surrendered to the attention span and dedication of the listener. There’s treasure in these hills for those willing to stay the course.
Label: Captured Tracks
Huw Baines is a freelance music writer with past bylines in the Guardian, Guitar Magazine, Vice, Clash, and elsewhere.