Darker My Love is an excellent debut from a band delightfully willing to spurn the pop charts in favor of a consistent, interesting, absorbing musical vision.
Who needs nostalgia? There's no good reason for nostalgia -- all it is is an implicit admission that things used to be better than they are right now. I still can't believe it wasn't that long ago that bell bottoms were actually back in style for a while, as if to say "You know what? Making pants that are tight around the thighs and humongous around the ankles shouldn't be constrained to a bygone era, because that's a look that's timeless." And now we're sitting at the tail end of this '80s revival thing, which is giving us critic-types a pass to give bands labels that use multiple hyphens, like post-post-punk and alt-synth-pop-rock-fusion.
And yet, Darker My Love is impossible to hate. Why? Because there is a difference between reliance on the past (which is what most nostalgia is guilty of) and respect for the past. Darker My Love has a healthy respect for the psychedelic rock of the '60s and '70s, gives '80s goth a wink, and ultimately settles down with modern Queens of the Stone Age-ish rock 'n' roll.
How can Darker My Love do this without sounding like a poorly-made stew of things that just don't go together? Well, if their self-titled, full-length debut is any indication, it's through a consistency of sound that, after you've finished playing "name that influence", simply begins sounding like Darker My Love. It's a feedback-heavy sound, with tons of reverb for that stadium-ready echo, but never so much as to take precedence over the songs themselves. Tim Presley and Rob Barbato team up on vocals for a harmony-rich vocal style that floats atop the thick instrumental arrangements like so much morning mist, while former Distiller Andy Granelli pounds the drums like they just told a joke about his mother. All of it combines to create a sound that never comes off as novel, but still uniquely identifies the band.
Those who missed out on Darker My Love's EP debut, Summer Is Here, are in for a treat: All three tracks from that EP are here, and they are actually three of the better tracks to be found on the full-length. "Helium Heels", in particular, is fantastic, as the guitars all but drown out the vocals, but intentionally so -- it's like a guitar bliss freakout that's meant to be played loud at a campground amongst droves of sweaty, dancing fools, the extended instrumental break in the middle pushing momentum powerfully, unstoppably forward. Closer "Summer Is Here" is further proof that ending with a bang can be at least as effective as ending with a whisper, and "Catch" provides pleasant, hazy, less-distorted respite from the noise of the tracks that surround it.
Of the tracks that didn't appear on the aforementioned EP, "What's a Man's Paris" is the perfect track to bounce around the room to, all drums, major-key harmonies, and more of that forward momentum, kicking off the rocking nicely after the too-mellow opener "Opening" (ha). "I Feel Fine" has a serious Beck-in-a-mellow-mood feel to its lyrics of drugged-out euphoria, and "Hello Traveler" is a fabulous case study in repetition as legitimate musical device.
Darker My Love is nothing even approaching a perfect album -- it often sounds as though it's one more effect pedal from drowning in its own unique ambiance, and the lyrics throughout the album are inconsequential at best. But then, that's the point -- it's a psych-rock record with enough punch to keep from boring the uninebriated, with people singing over the top for the sake of having the unique melodies that happen to come with the pretty much pointless words. Darker My Love won't have you talking about the return of a long-dormant musical era, it'll have you talking about just how fantastic it sounds, while spurring you into listening and re-listening to bands from just about every era since rock 'n' roll became a viable musical genre. It's an excellent debut from a band delightfully willing to spurn the pop charts in favor of a consistent, interesting, absorbing musical vision. Now's your chance to hop on the bandwagon.