[17 March 2005]
The Golden Republic is another in a long line of alternative rock acts signed to Astralwerks with no real impetus or thrust behind them, just plopped onto college radio thereby to sink or swim on their own merits. If this sounds overly harsh, perhaps it is—but then again, whatever became of Sunna, the Band of Bees or the Caesars? That’s not exactly an encouraging track record.
The Golden Republic hail from Kansas City, MO, the brainchild of cousins Ben Grimes and Ryan Shank. After spending a few years in a shifting lineup, they settled on their current incarnation in 2002. They suffer from the same kind of stylistic confusion that infects so many other young bands: they’ve obviously got stellar influences, but they seem unable to digest them effectively. They’ve got some Beatle-based garage pop, some disco-fied post-punk, some 70s glam, and even an acoustic ballad, all filtered through the slightly tinny focus of latter-day American retro-revival groups such as the Strokes and the Kings of Leon. There’s nothing terribly original here.
The EP opens with “You Almost Had It”, which demonstrates the absolutely inescapable nature of the Beatles’ influence on the DNA of modern rock. Scraping away the numerous layers of guitar fuzz and New Wave mannerisms, you find remnants of glammy pop groups like the Electric Light Orchestra and Mott the Hoople, groups who took the Beatles’ craft and welded it to the slightly more dangerous sounds of acid rock and glam. The Golden Republic even have the same kind of faux-affected doo-wop “woo-woo’s” that ELO had, albeit with much less of that group’s signature bombast.
“Great Communication” could be the next Strokes single, if the Strokes lost their ear for the undeniable pop hook. “Make It” reminds me even more strongly of middle-period, flabby Oasis—full of great bits cribbed from older and better tracks recorded by older and better musicians, but with every bit of life squeezed out in the translation. In particular, you should watch out for the cloying falsetto “yeah yeah yeah’s” in the chorus. “Rows of People” comes off a little better, if only because it is slightly more ambitious in its cribbing. You don’t hear too many folks with the balls to swipe from The Wall, but the combination of acoustic guitar and swooping synthesizer lines creates the indelible impression that you have heard this melody somewhere before, and that place was “Welcome to the Machine”.
Which is not to say that the Golden Republic are a bad group, merely that they are young and obviously unformed. Whether or not the coming years will see them improve on this somewhat hackneyed template and make themselves into something more effective than merely the sum of their influences remains to be seen. It’s usually not a question of talent so much as drive, and based on these four songs it’s just to early to tell.