Album: Sic Alps
Label: Drag City
Everyone loves a good garage band. For anyone that has played in a band, it may remind of what it was like, playing some jangly tunes without a care in the world. When it works it’s brilliant because of its simplicity, when it doesn’t it reminds you of everything you don’t like about music, a reminder of you and your friends wanking in the garage. Not that Sic Alps are in that latter category especially since their last release Napa Asylum got some good attention and press. With four albums and a ton of EP’s to their name Sic Alps have gotten by pretty well with their pretty straightforward garage sound, but unfortunately their self-titled new release falls flat.
I always feel that when a band releases a self-titled album it’s a defining statement of who they are as a band. Sometimes if it’s their first album, it’s an establishing statement, but when it comes 8 years into their career it’s a redefining one. With the first song and first single “Glyphs”, it certainly does feel that Sic Alps are trying something new out as the first sounds you hear are from a cello. It’s a groovy number and definitely one of the album’s best, but really does set the album off on a mellow vibe. Things pick up with “God Bless Her, I Miss Her” which is a song that could really have been taken up a notch in tempo and intensity, but they’ve deliberately kept it low key which is pretty cool, especially coming off the previous song. I would suspect that when they play this song live, it’ll sound much different. “Lazee Son” is the third song on the album and really should have been the title of the album. It’s an acoustic bedroom song about a kid that sleeps all day and never gets anything done. It makes me very anxious just listening to it, I don’t like it. “Polka Vat” is much of the same with the electric guitars coming back, but Mike Donovan is still in a slumbery mood with his quiet whispering vocals. After all that you might anticipate the next track titled “Wake Up, It’s Over II”, but I’m pretty sure this song is not waking anyone up, and if you did wake up you might be disappointed to know there’s five songs left. “Drink Up!” is the next track and I gladly take the advice, as I’m grasping for straws here trying to find inspiration with another slow paced meandering track. “Moviehead” finally gives us something to tap our foot to, but the follow up “Thylacine Man” should become as extinct as those large marsupials. “Rock Races” is the second to last track, and I can’t help that they are deliberately trying to make the sleepiest garage rock record in history. “See You On the Slopes” takes a whole new approach by ditching the dopey instruments for just a piano.
If they set out to make this record to be one to put babies to bed they’ve done a good job. I clearly see a theme so I can’t help but wonder that they deliberately did set out to make a quieter album, but I just don’t think Sic Alps can pull it off, and even though it’s a self-titled release, it’s not a strong redefining statement. They need to crank up the guitars again, because jangly garage rock doesn’t sound very good when it’s slowed down and quiet.
– Michael Unger