A step backward for a sometimes-great band
I described Solvents’ 2010 offering, Forgive Yr Blood, as “a small-scale, lo-fi masterpiece”, and so it was: with its compelling mix of acoustic sounds, urgent vocals and occasional blasts of distorted guitar, the band had tapped into a reliably unpredictable vein of alt/rock/folk. This time around, though, the band has pulled the plug and gone the folkie-strumming route, with occasional bits of fiddle. It’s not a disaster, as some of the songs maintain energy and/or wistfulness even in this stripped-down form, with highlights being the rolling “Unslaved and Unrenowned” and especially “Blaine Street Song”, with its moody verses and melodic chorus.
Neither is the record great, though. There’s more than a little Bon Iver influence here, and maybe that’s intentional, but there’s just not enough bite to sustain a whole album. Certain elements, particularly the middling tempos and sonic range, grow repetitive well before album closer “Careless Step” wraps things up with a final wash of elegiac, fiddle-accompanied strumming. It’s a good song, but weakened by too many similar ones before it. Note to the band: you had something great going on last time around. Think about ways to get back to it.