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Vulture Whale

Long Time Listener First Time Caller

(Ol Elegante; US: 17 May 2011; UK: import)

Things have clearly changed for Vulture Whale on record number three. For one, they finally have a full-length that isn’t self titled. The more important change, though, is the lean crunch of the first few songs. In place of their usual deep-fried slacker rock, the band tightens up into sharp riffs here. The guitars get louder but also more precise, and they sound more like AC/DC on songs like “Devices” and “Hey Midas, That’s Fantastic” than Guided by Voices or Silkworm. From there the record expands its palate and Long Time Listener First Time Caller becomes a lush and thickly layered rock record. Having set down the foundation on those early songs, we get the dreamy breakdowns of “VCVW”, the moody ringing riffs of “Peace Out”. There’s also the Mascis-stamped bending hook on “Friday Night Video Fights” and the charging wall of distortion on closer “It’s Alright to Get Excited”. After stepping out of their comfort zone with the faux-Brit-rock of the Bamboo You EP, this record feels like a more natural expansion of the band’s sound. That smirking swagger in Wes McDonald’s voice—and he is doing good work combating the glut of low-personality navel gazers in indie rock today—isn’t about conveying a lack of care, it’s about a well-earned confidence. Vulture Whale is all about the pretension-free fist-pumping, but pulls it off with songs that are built on smart lyrics and tight melodies. They are not in this to give up anything, and Long Time Listener First Time Caller is an uncompromising but wholly infectious rock record. Vulture Whale is, in the end, exactly as advertised—the band’s sound is huge, but it picks from the bones of dying rock tropes, gathers strength, and spins upward.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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27 Jan 2010
These songs sweat last night's whiskey, and that boozy feel works its way through Bamboo You along with a charming, new nod to Brit-pop that works -- faux-British accent and all.
22 Apr 2009
When you've got a name as perfectly rock sounding as Vulture Whale, you're allowed to release a second self-titled album. Especially when the second Vulture Whale is so damn good.
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