[5 August 2012]
In his hometown of Portland, OR, Erik Gage—the lead singer of the Memories—is regarded as sort of an “indie tycoon”. Aside from being the creative mastermind behind thoroughly established party-punk outfit White Fang, Gage operates one of the most popular boutique cassette tape labels (you heard right) in America—Gnar Tapes & Shit—out of his house. It’s not surprising, then, that virtually all of the artists he’s involved with display a decidedly homespun quality—fittingly, R. Stevie Moore is among the label’s recent signees.
The Memories are no exception. Their eponymous debut is indie pop of the highest order, and in the purest sense. Many of its songs hark back to the genre’s scratchy forebears such as Primal Scream, Beat Happening and the Feelies. To put it simply, this record sounds like like it was made by a bunch of kids who barely have any idea what they’re doing or where it’s coming from—but it’s that impetuous, unseasoned enthusiasm that makes pop music like this so personal and engaging.
The Memories’ influences audibly extend past twee pioneers, however. The rhythm and vocal melody in the first track, “Baby (You’re Totally Crazy)” for instance, sound like a Casio-keyboard cover of a mid-‘00s, top 40 R&B hit, and “Softly” is a merciless aping of the Zombies obscurity “How We Were Before”. As a matter of fact, the entire record (including its cover) evoke a certain nostalgia for a seemingly simpler era (early ‘60s) that nobody in the band are old enough to have experienced. “What You Want to Do Tonight” and “Silly Little Picture” are endearingly awkward attempts at doo-wop, “Higher” sounds like an oversimplified “A Hard Day’s Night” and “He’s Just a Sad Guy” sounds like a cross between Carl Perkins and merseybeat, which might just equate to “George Harrison’s early Beatles’ contributions” but here the hybrid is more jagged and contrived.
The members of the Memories’ clearly have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop history, but there is something about the vocal melodies that are almost always distinctly contemporary—it’s not impossible to imagine the melody of “Clueless” being sung by an artist like M.I.A., albeit with different lyrics. Their appreciation for (and appropriation of) the best aspects of top 40 radio of the present distinguish them from fellow indie pop artists, who ordinarily focus exclusively on pop of the past.
While hooks definitely abound on The Memories, each song can’t help but feeling a little incomplete. The album is more like a collage or exhibition of different varieties of pop than a cohesive statement or collection of songs—and by some standards, because of it’s relatively short length, it doesn’t even technically qualify as an LP. It’s a curio, but at some intervals can be hard to take seriously. Recommended regardless.