One of the best reasons to review any band’s latest release is to chronicle a massive improvement over their previous record, and Goon’s Hour of Green Evening perfectly fits this description. 2019’s full-length Heaven Is Humming was, for the most part, a simplistic, buzzing mess, with nary a decent hook to be found. Last February’s EP Paint By Numbers Vol. 1 wisely shifted to a more psychedelic and trippy sound, one approximating other acoustic lo-fi acts such as My God Damn Territory, though not nearly so placid. This approach worked much better for Goon in the studio and might prove highly satisfying for fans of pastoral music. But Paint was still hamstrung by its somnolent aesthetic, yielding a conspicuous lack of excitement.
Listening to Hour of Green Evening is like a whole new football match. More akin to the Skygreen Leopards’ hallucinatory indie folk, but without the shrill chord changes, this record boasts excellent production values for its genre – not to mention a lot more focused energy than Goon’s prior efforts. The brainchild of frontman Kenny Becker, this is seductive, willowy music with a surreal edge. Becker’s feminine, high-pitched vocals also bring to mind Larry Lee of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils – rich praise indeed – whose indelible performance on 1975’s eerie “Jackie Blue” managed to convince an entire nation that a woman was actually singing. If Becker isn’t Goon’s actual vocalist, then consider me fooled again.
After a short introduction, the chugging guitar refrain on “Angelnumber 1210” opens the record like a serial killer staring into a mirror. So insistent are these chords that one is almost afraid to share a room with them; the song then closes off with a perfect desert-riff solo. Becker’s vocals may be at their most captivating on follow-up “Another Window”, whose lumbering guitar accentuates the atmosphere of desolation without depression.
Though to be sure, these are not dirges by any means: The drawling melody from Velvet Underground tribute “Emily Says” takes on an almost Britpop hue, if one allows for a few speed bumps. As quoted on Bandcamp, Becker claims the song is about “how falling in love can save your life, but it doesn’t fix any of your problems. The chaos of life will persist, but it’s a little bit better because we’re not facing it on our own anymore. We’re together.” Nice sentiment, that.
The record also boasts some inspired if enigmatic lyrics. Spooky roundabout verses like “When I was small / Saria’s ageless song played along / A pattern and a path to follow” from “Wavy Maze” invoke hazy memories of youth that most of us seem to share. “Many gathered lamps will light / And in hallowed rhyme / There we will sharpen knives” from the semi-lullabyish “Another Window” is also a keeper, if not quite so frightening as Peter Gabriel’s murderous work on his 1980 Melting Face album. But the best overall track on Hour of Green Evening would have to be the plaintive and affecting “Buffalo”, whose crisply plucked chords and keening vocals definitively cement that haunting mid-1970s “Jackie Blue” vibe.
Some bands adjust their sound for the better, while others tinker with a successful formula merely for change’s sake. Goon unquestionably falls in the former category, making Hour of Green Evening an unanticipated and compelling listen.