Despite what The O.C.‘s seemingly endless indie rock compilations will have you believe, Orange County ain’t that hip. This is, after all, the place that spawned No Doubt, a vapid wasteland of stripmalls where the closest thing to counterculture is Hot Topic, a manufactured, corporate version of “punk.” A fucking travesty. I had a glimmer of hope for the region, however, when I heard a spunky little band from the area by the name of Hong Kong Six earlier on this year. And now I have a lot of hope that a nail in the coffin for all this bullshit is coming soon now that Anaheim’s The Willowz have graced my CD player. While the first look of the album’s cover may lead one to believe that these kids haven’t set foot off of a commune all their lives, The Willowz aim to please. Fronted by badass chick-with-a-bass Jessica Reynoza and guitarist/vocalist Richie March, Talk in Circles is a chunky stew of arty garage punk blues.
The opener “Ulcer Soul” blasts out the fuzz while “Cons and Tricks” goes forth with a greased-lightning paced rhythm as barrage of raspy “ahhh”s rain down. The Willowz get downright youthful with some grimy pop on “Making Certain” and if Sonic Youth played at a “Be-IN” in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park during the heyday of the Summer of Love, it would sound something along the line of the snotty ruckus of “We Live on Your Street.”
The No-Wave setting of “No Name Notes” comes off with a BAM! that even Emeril Lagasse would be hard pressed to match even with his essence. And a jazzy punk spazz-out is let loose with “Skriek.” It’s emits a sound that could have been if the MC5 and King Crimson ever collaborated. (How fucking sweet would that have been??!!) Let it never be said that the Willowz don’t have soul, because they most assuredly do. Tracks get a little bluesy on the spiky guitar licks of “What’s Wrong is Right” while “Toy” just puts the listener into a dingy dive bar with cigarette smoke wafting in the air.
Talk in Circles should not pass you by this year. They’re certainly among the best of today’s garage rock crop, but surpass that tag altogether. Their sound is fun, freewheeling, and at times psychedelic, giving you a kick in the ass while maintaining a druggy presence with a supercharged and razor sharp gusto.
Von Bondies – Lack of Communication
Gun Club – Fire of Love
Various Artists – Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Second Psychedelic Era 1976-1995