Endearing Records seems to be on a mission to keep the spirit and substance of mid-‘90s rock alive and kicking into the new millennium. Just as the Twigs’ Epicure rehashes and revamps the noise pop of the Breeders and the Pixies, Endearing’s latest import, the Canadian quartet Projektor (yes, that is how you spell it; maybe it’s a Northern thing), have taken liberally from such ‘90s acts as Catherine Wheel, Smashing Pumpkins, and The Bends-era Radiohead. Their debut CD, Red Wolf Glass, is a dark, swarming, guitar pop opus—quiet songs of desperation and loneliness peek their heads out here and there from behind the opaque fuzz of the rhythm section.
The eight songs on Red Wolf Glass are all of a piece. Quiet, watery verses, sustained by beautiful vocal harmonies between singers Jahmeel (again, a Canadian thing?) and Dustin Leader give way to positively blistering, cascading choruses of distorted guitars and anguished vocals. What appear to begin as simple, gloomy pop songs morph and mutate into six-minute-plus guitar escapades.
Jahmeel and Leader’s versatile guitar attack is the most impressive and definitive aspect of Projektor’s debut. On tracks like “Continental” and “Silver Circles”, distorted guitar builds upon distorted guitar in an avalanche of feedback and sustained fuzz tones. “Continental” starts off with bassist Chris Harder’s quiet, bouncy bass line (very reminiscent of Radiohead’s “Sulk”) until switching gears abruptly, erupting in a fury of droning, assaulting guitar force. The dueling guitar solos that battle throughout the song’s meandering bridge recall the guitar work of Billy Corgan and James Iha in the Smashing Pumpkins in their almost heavy metal-like audacity and virtuosity.
The songs themselves recall the mid-‘90s as well—confessional, mopey odes to lost love and loneliness couched in harmonious musical chaos (think “Creep”). As the disc’s opener “Foxfire” is about to explode in its guitar drenched chorus, for example, Jahmeel screams this memento of lost love and melancholy: “So why aren’t you with me?” The dichotomy between the songs and the music is startling throughout the entire disc—as much as track like “Continental” recalls the alternative-metal of the Pumpkins, the songs are ditties of pure romantic isolationism.
Nowhere is this split more apparent than on the album’s eight-minute-plus closer, “Beautiful Skin” (the title alone should tell you Jahmeel is a bit melodramatic and weepy about matters of love and desire). The track begins slow and languorous, as Jahmeel and Leader’s vocals intersect in rough, anguished harmonies, singing, “Never desire, / foolish desperation. / You can keep your sweet slavery, / painted eyes and I love the sour / (black dress) and a bittersweet fury / when you’re tearing up my back.” “Beautiful Skin” is itself a wandering work of bittersweet fury. After the track has zigged and zagged its way through five a half lazy minutes of mopey vocals and slow, melancholy guitars, it all of a sudden erupts in a blast of white noise fury as the rhythm section attempts to blow out the speakers. And then it ends as quickly as it began. From watery romanticism to impassioned anger—bittersweet fury indeed.
Red Wolf Glass is a formidable and impressive debut from four musicians who have wandered all through the Canadian rock scene in bands like Leaderhouse, the Kittens, and Meatrack. Luckily for them, they seem to have come at the right time. As everyone mourns the loss of the guitar-gods version of Radiohead, the rock world is looking for a new “savior”. Why then all the fuss surrounding Sigur Ros or Godspeed You Black Emperor!? Projektor should fit in just fine since they themselves seem to be trying to fill the shoes left empty since the Pumpkins broke up and Radiohead made Kid A. But perhaps those shoes shouldn’t be filled. Sigur Ros, at least, is doing something completely fresh and new with the guitar rock genre, not merely rehashing its ‘90s giants. Projektor, on the other hand, want very much to be where those bands left off, instead of wanting to go one step further, and take their music where those bands never went before.