The British Invasion was, in a way, the punk rock of its day—teenagers reveled in it, parents loathed it, and a lot of it was rough, ragged garage rock, confined to three or four chords. And I won’t even bother getting into the Beatles, Stones or Kinks’ later days. But compare “My Generation” or “All Day and All of the Night” or “Gloria” to “New Rose” or “White Riot.” There may be a much larger snot component in the latter two, but the similarities are there, even if the themes are less closely aligned. Keeping that in mind, it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch to, then, bridge the gap between the electric British sound of the ’60s with more modern and, comparatively, weird punk-ish bands like Deerhoof or Unwound. That’s exactly what Seattle’s Welcome approximates on their debut album, Sirs, and it may or may not come as any surprise that this stylistic marriage works wonderfully.
Leadoff track “All Set” is the perfect example of how far the band pulls itself in either direction. Tinny, distorted guitars clang like Ray Davies’ six strings, but with a far more dissonant and bizarre melodic fucked-up-ness, topped off with a Syd Barrett-like collision of vocal effects and psychedelic organ. And yet, the longer the song plays, the more sense it makes, eventually sounding harmonious in its off-kilter blitzkrieg. “Marry Me Man,” with its shuffling rhythms and “Iron Man” vocal effects, is a bit more restrained, yet no less accessible, or bizarre for that matter. Sharing the name of a longtime favorite San Diego band, “Bunky” is curiously pretty and dreamy, Jo Claxton’s vocals bringing to mind the sweet ambivalence of Kim Deal, while the guitars, even at their most dissonant, seem to recall vintage 4AD bands like Lush.
It only gets weirder though: the pretty eeriness of “First” reminds me of a harsher sounding Broadcast, and “Natural Frost” is seemingly far more exaggerated in its outlandish tuning, guitar strings buzzing and shivering every which way, yet rocking out nonetheless. And somehow, “This Minute” comes along, sounding almost…normal. Normal by Welcome’s standards of course; they most likely don’t know the meaning of the word.
The beauty of Sirs, is that Welcome can somehow forge memorable, and even tuneful ditties from abrasive arrangements, unrelenting in their mission to sidestep conventionalism and do it their own damn way. Their melodic aberrations are enough to make both Thurston Moore and Syd Barrett proud.
The Breeders – Last Splash
Deerhoof – Apple O’
Pink Floyd – Piper At the Gates of Dawn
MP3: “All Set”
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.