Although Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair has a fairly distinct color scheme, it deviates enough to resist the pastel end of the indie rock rainbow.
Grooms is one in a number of bands nurtured through the recently shuttered Brooklyn DIY venue, Death by Audio. It was a space most closely associated with A Place to Bury Strangers, a band known for harsh, overwhelming sounds and live sets guaranteed to overwork the senses. Grooms frontman Travis Johnson even made effects pedals alongside A Place to Bury Strangers’ frontman, Oliver Ackermann, for the pedal company the venue grew from. Listening to Grooms’ fourth and latest release, Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair, it may feel at first strange to consider Grooms as a considerable part of this scene, but with return listens, the band’s maturation comes across as totally organic. I would even go so far as to say the dreamy Comb the Feelings is better than the more nightmarish Transfixiation, the new release from A Place to Bury Strangers, although it holds out on many of its charms until its latter half.
The album’s first two songs, “Bed Scene” and “Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair”, immediately clue you in to Grooms’ expanding toolbox on this go round. In place of the more threadbare, conventional indie of 2011’s breakthrough release Prom are kaleidoscopic tunes inflected with keyboard-heavy murmurings and motorik rhythms. The title track is a fine enough song as is, but it doesn’t really deliver on its promises until the last 30 seconds, when the colors in the album’s horizon really gleam. It's a promise that shows itself again with “Doctor M”, an exceptionally dreamy offering with a game-changing outro.
”Will the Boys” has a sing-songy quality similar to some of the cuts from Grooms’ previous album, Infinity Caller. It is hard to pull off such melodies without becoming overbearingly twee, but Johnson allows the music to wander into more vibrant, slightly dissonant territories while also throwing out curious lines like “I’m a mother with a history no vamping slut could see.”
The four songs that follow “Will the Boys” show Grooms at its best and most varied. “Savage Seminar” has a lighter tone, somewhat indebted to ‘90s indie rather than the shoegaze of many of Comb Your Feelings’ other tracks. “Grenadine Scene From Inside” brings back the sing-songy melodies of “Will the Boys”, but wraps them in a darker, more caustic atmosphere. This song bleeds perfectly into “Foster Sister”, a mildly devious number with a slightly sexy and very welcome edge. Swirling, swarming keyboards and thunder crack percussion is never too far behind. The album ends on the vaguely new wave-y and far more easygoing “Later a Dream”.
Although Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair has a fairly distinct color scheme, it deviates enough to resist the pastel end of the indie rock rainbow. A Place to Bury Strangers’ aforementioned Transfixiation, as solid a release as it is, prefers to stay murky, and ultimately becomes overpowered by this. Both acts’ old stomping ground may be gone, but with Comb Your Feelings, Johnson has displayed the restlessness required to thrive beyond the DIY nest.