Saloon : Lo-Fi Sounds Hi-fi Heart
“Space Age Bachelor Pad Music” is a term that was coined in describing the music of the 1960s lounge craze, most notably Mexican exotica auteur Esquivel, and was later co-opted by post-rock/lounge superstars Stereolab. Though not a lounge band themselves, Saloon is the type of act that could easily be described with this five word phrase, bringing to mind lava lamps and amorphous furniture above their namesake’s suggestion of swinging doors and player pianos. Moody and spacey, Saloon combined analog synth sounds with trippy indie rock, not unlike early Stereolab, creating a uniquely swinging and swirling take on twee. Having released only two albums before disbanding in 2003, Saloon didn’t last all that long, but for those wishing to hear more, there is relief in the form of a singles collection titled Lo-Fi Sounds, Hi-Fi Heart.
Lo-Fi Sounds collects all of the band’s singles, the most notable of which is “Girls Are the New Boys,” which landed a number one spot on John Peel’s festive 50 after its release. Spanning 17 tracks and bearing a running time that well surpasses the sixty minute mark, this collection is a generous set, one with a seemingly endless supply of highlights. Though few of them were widely heard during the band’s existence, Saloon’s singles are nothing short of delightful, lo-fi space age gems. Frontwoman Amanda Gomez’s vocals provide the right amount of sweetness with an exotic allure that she exudes when singing in Spanish, though much of the time her chosen musical language is the Queen’s English. One cannot deny the mystique of a track like “Futurismo,” however, bringing to mind the mysteriously sexy images on all of Martin Denny’s old records.
I did mention “twee,” however, and there’s a fair portion of that here as well, such as the jangly indie pop tune “Electron,” which brings to mind bands like Belle & Sebastian over Saloon’s space age contemporaries. Admittedly, I prefer their switched on farfisa rockers, as they color Saloon’s melodies with just enough fuzz to stand out above the more subdued singles. “Impact” buzzes and drones nicely; “Movimento” sparkles and shimmers like a Lite-Brite symphony; and the favorite “Girls Are the New Boys” is nearly Krautrock in its repetitive rhythms and minimal percussion.
Saloon didn’t make as big of a splash as forebears such as Stereolab, Velocity Girl or Lush, but they did release a wonderful series of singles during their short tenure. Lo-Fi Sounds, Hi-Fi Heart wraps up Saloon’s career well and offers a comprehensive starting place for those looking to explore the Reading band’s lovely fuzz pop.
Stereolab – Refried Ectoplasm: Switched on Vol. 2
Velocity Girl – Copacetic
Broadcast – Work and Non-Work
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.