Let’s call Restorations what they are: an American rock band. And a damn fine one at that.
How you classify Philadelphia’s Restorations largely depends on your age. For those of an era beyond attending their 20-year high school reunion, Fugazi, Helmet and Archers of Loaf are touchpoints. Fan alumni of the Vans Warped Tour will likely err on the side of Lucero and Gaslight Anthem, neither of which quite match the predominant genre of the traveling festival’s origins. Lumped in with their local Philadelphia punk scene, Restorations fraternize with fellow basement dwellers The Menzingers whose brand of ska-punk-pop comes by way of the Hold Steady; the upstart trio Cayetana; and the emo-driven Modern Baseball, who follow in the footsteps of the recently-reunited American Football and Braid. Playing Fest, the annual Gainesville, Florida punk gathering, the last handful of years, Restorations have rubbed shoulders with the likes of Hot Water Music, a more obvious touchstone for the band given the sound of their latest album LP3.
Opening with the bubbling angst of "Wales", Restorations are in no rush to get to any predetermined message. Taking nearly two minutes before frontman Jon Loudon’s vocals begin, the majority of songs on LP3 reach for or extend beyond the four-minute mark. Featuring a three-guitar attack that’s more muscular than the above-mentioned bands, melodic squalls and unabashed fury do nothing to hide the rhythm section’s low end on songs like "The Future" and "Tiny Prayers", the latter leaving nothing in its wake but feedback and Loudon’s vocal shrapnel. From the psych-noodling of "No Castle" to the bent-string twang on songs like "Misprint" and the shambolic closing jam "It’s Not", there is enough variation and instrumental dexterity to appeal to a fanbase beyond punk’s various sub-genres.
Unlike the typical juvenile discontent of punk, Restorations deal with the mundane and anxiety of adult life in much the same way as The National on "All My Home", the deconstructed groove of "Misprint" and "Separate Songs", with it closing couplet of "Your forehead up against / Frozen subway glass / Neon next stop light / Blinks maybe next year."
Forever saddled with comparisons to the Replacements andBruce Springsteen, Lucero and Gaslight Anthem (whose lead singer, Brian Fallon, fronts the side project Horrible Crowes which shares a record label with Restorations), both acts have taken great strides to shed their early influences. Where Lucero has triumphed leaving behind their country-punk beginning, Gaslight Anthem’s recent experimentation on href="http://www.popmatters.com/review/184451-the-gaslight-anthem-get-hurt/"Get Hurt met with mixed results. Like Lucero, whose expanded band has adopted a sound derived from the spirit of their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, adding keys and horns on recent albums (notably leaving "Kiss the Bottle", the Jawbreaker cover that served as the band’s early anthem, off their 2014 live release, Live from Atlanta), Restorations too have added brass elements on LP3, further building on their multi-layered 2013 release, LP2.
Poised to break out following LP2, perhaps the shadows cast by Kurt Vile and War on Drugs are currently too large to allow Restorations to stand on their own in Philadelphia without a genre tag. Rather than peg them to a particular musical tree, let’s call Restorations what they are: an American rock band. And a damn fine one at that. Any hype bestowed upon them following LP2 has proven warranted with LP3.