• Tue, Jul 27, 2021
Reviews

Rock Quartet Silver Synthetic Combine Past And Present On Debut Album

8.5

album Reviews Apr 09, 09:47am

While there is pedigree behind the self-titled effort, there is also some great writing

New Orleans four-piece Silver Synthetic comes out of two bands that are already lauded in the city’s sprawling garage scene: Bottomfeeders and JEFF The Brotherhood (check out their KEXP sessions if you haven’t). Their debut EP came out last year and this full-length is out by way of Third Man Records. Obviously, you don’t get to do all this without a high level of musicianship and all that, but what really stands out about this self-titled album is the incredibly seamless meshing of psychedelia, classic pop-rock a la swinging sixties-seventies and a certain rawness that is all Silver Synthetic’s own. It’s great stuff.

Let’s get the production out of the way first because it’s obviously top-tier. The guitars are often on the verge of distorting but rarely actually do, which is that sweet spot a lot of people talk about. They also have a twang to them that works great with the rounded, very articulate bass (a nod to the past there, one would assume). The drums are dry but fill space; the thing that strikes you about the sound here is how open it is. It isn’t particularly boxy nor is it cavernous, but it still sounds rather big. The same goes for the very open, clear, no-nonsense vocals; the band isn’t particularly interested in any frills or tricks for the most part here. That’s sometimes a bit of a risky approach at the best of times because when you are this to-the-point, there’s often nothing to hide songs behind. You almost have no option than to focus on the meat and potatoes of the music here; the songwriting is the songwriting, the vocals are the vocals and that’s what you have (as a listener) to work with. But that’s refreshing here, because the songs exhibit an organic ‘life’ that is very compelling indeed.

Most of the album is mid-tempo rock n’ roll, but it makes sure it takes full advantage of the formulaic nature of the genre, in that all the songs are easy to listen to and written excellently. Opener ‘In The Beginning’ is a laid-back jam that has one of the nicest hooks on the whole album and an easygoing groove. The bridge (that comes back for a second outing at the end of the song) is also delightful with its short and sweet lead section. ‘Unchain Your Heart’ is much more in foot-stepping (or chicken-dancing, depending on what you’re into) territory with its more propulsive groove, repeating but rather quiet guitar layering. Of course the vocals have a decidedly classic bent to them, but that’s the point. The song also splits up its structure with some awesome jam-like instrumentation and rhythmic soloing. ‘Around The Bend’ is very much in a similar space but the chorus is a bit more front-and-centre. Silver Synthetic really shines when they throw in a small instrumental break but never (I mean, never) do they let it wander off; the song’s hooks are always waiting in the wings to bring the vibe right back into focus. It’s such a smart and simple way to write but it isn’t particularly easy to pull off.

 

 

This track’s solo has a little tonal variation, but only a little bit. ‘Chasm Killer’ is one of the more chilled out (read falsetto, a loping groove and the merest tinge of psychedelia) songs here and the slower tempo really lets its solo shine. There’s a bit of added soul here that works a treat. It is followed by the far more uppity ‘Out Of The Darkness’; the album’s last four tracks sort of alternate between more psych-adjacent rock and jangly, low-key material that sounds like a precursor to the indie rock that ate up the last decade. ‘Out Of The Darkness’ has maybe the most fun chorus to sing along to on the whole album. The guitar vaguely quoting the vocals when it gets the chance is also a nice touch. ‘Unholy Love’ is another laid-back groove (there’s something about a dry ride cymbal that elevates these songs beyond belief). It’s something of a sunny and light song with some awesome chords and an oddly lovelorn delivery. ‘Some Of What You Want’ is the point on the album where you realise there have been vocal harmonies the whole time. The closer ‘On The Way Home’ uses some classic chords, some airy tones and is the correct way to sum up all the material before it.

Don’t be mistaken, the whole idea of ‘Silver Synthetic’ is that is takes a definite structure and focuses on the details. The point is to have simple rock songs with some strong hooks and writing. This isn’t particularly an album where a band sits and experiments until they land up somewhere completely different to where they started. Don’t expect left turns or wildly different moods from track to track; for that matter, if you do expect variation in that sense, that isn’t even what this music is going for. This album is an exercise in control and working a lot to write something simple. The band excels in that regard.

Listen to 'Silver Synthetic' here and on all platforms.

 

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