It takes more than talent to brighten up a sound that went out of fashion decades ago. Back in the early- to mid-’90s, you could turn on a mainstream “alternative” rock station and you were almost guaranteed to hear about a half dozen bands that sounded like Spielbergs. They evoke any number of vintage alt-rock bands, from Sugar and Dinosaur Jr. to Teenage Fanclub and My Bloody Valentine—the latter two more college radio than terrestrial regulars, but the point still stands. For a while their brand of fuzzed-out rock went out of favor in the ’00s, usurped by MPC-wielding weirdos like Animal Collective, and art-school valedictorians such as Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend. But loud guitars never really lose their appeal—for how often rock seems to be dead and buried, it always rises back up again to deliver a Japandroids, a Beach Slang or a Speedy Ortiz.
It, likewise, has delivered Norway’s Spielbergs, and their immediacy and urgency already give them the benefit of being one of the easiest guitar bands to love in 2019. They’re loud, yet catchy, dense yet heavy on melody. You could call them a “shoegaze” band and not technically be wrong, necessarily, but if they are, they’re more Swervedriver than Ride, careening their way toward Satansville with giddy abandon and a need to turn the riffs up as loud as possible. Their noise machine is always firing on all cylinders, but beneath the crunch, whir and whoosh is a pop sensibility that makes the din all the more appealing.
This Is Not the End, their debut album, is less an introductory statement than the inevitable result of three veteran musicians achieving a kind of synchronized perfection. Though they’re a new band, the trio have each individually done plenty of time in other Oslo indie rock outfits, and it shows. Though there’s an energy and an enthusiasm about Spielbergs’ debut LP that suggests a kind of youthful brashness, the sophistication of their songwriting is anything but. Take a ripper like “Bad Friend,” which explodes out of the gates with an earworm riff only to segue into some spectacular vocal harmonies and a furiously cathartic chorus of “You’re a bad friend!” And even with the amps blown out, “Distant Star” is even more interesting for the nuances it harbors—and, of course, even more mesmerizing headphone-worthy harmonies.
True to the ’90s-era heroes that have influenced bands like Spielbergs, This Is Not the End features some glowing moments of slacker humor mixed in with their unabashedly belted rock anthems. Opening track “Five On It” nods to Luniz’s puff-puff-pass paean through its squalls of feedback and angsty heroism, while “McDonalds (Please Don’t Fuck Up My Order)” aligns one of the goofiest titles of the bunch with a slow-burn epic that reveals Spielbergs’ prettiest and most emotionally charged sensibilities. It feels so much bigger and more important than a Quarter Pounder or six pack of McNuggets, but that wink lets the listener know that Spielbergs are always ultimately going to lean toward fun, even at their most sparse and introspective. And they are fun—extremely so. This Is Not the End is just the right balance of volume, catharsis and pop perfection that never goes out of style.
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.