For a genre that turned rudimentary rock songs on their ear in the early '90s, shoegaze has since become stagnant. From the time when My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Slowdive packed venues and released new material, shoegaze has regressed into a style of sound that is now being merely copied and surviving as a derivative of the bands from the genre's initial reign. For many years, bands have been content with drawing from the past rather than forging into the future's new sonic territory. Unfortunately, Whirlaway's debut full-length also falls under this oft-cast spell as Pompano is delightful, but hardly innovative.
Pompano enters with "Walkthrough" and quickly establishes a sound that blends Ride's dreampop atmospheres with Doves' indie pop rock sheen to arrive at a song that is structurally grounded, but still drifts through many breezy stratospheres of sound. Like much of Pompano, "Walkthrough" has an interest in feedback-laced soundscapes, but only as a tool to augment true pop songs and finetuned melodies rather than utilizing distortion as the foundation of the songs and as a basis of sound. Ultimately, this south Florida quartet values pop structures and catchy melodies over sonic texture and searing feedback.
Although this technique veers away from innovative sound experiments and settles for more formulaic conventions, Whirlaway do also have the ability to craft genuinely memorable pop songs. "What I See" exists as one of Pompano's most subdued and docile tracks, but within its five minutes, Whirlaway resurrect gorgeous melodies alongside chiming guitar chords that get trapped in a warm summer breeze sometime before the reach your ears.
Whirlaway also exhibit their ability to craft extended songs that approach the seven-minute mark on "Gone By Now" and the closer "Tumble". While it may be a tad forgettable and bit tame, "Gone By Now" finds Whirlaway finally reverting from much of Pompano's structural rigidity by sifting sparse vocals and a slow burning guitar lines only to write a song that merely sounds bored and tired of itself.
However, Pompano's album-ending cut, "Tumble" is one of Whirlaway's more memorable moments with the song's heavy mood, lilting piano notes, and climax into a beautiful guitar-led journey into territory Slowdive explored on Souvlaki. It's a highlight of the album, but on a record that unfortunately is content with staying rooted in the past, that is not entirely hard to accomplish.
It's not that Pompano is a poor album by any means; it's that the album has not even the slightest interest in pushing boundaries and transgressing limits that makes it such a frustrating listen. Whirlaway are indeed a talented four-piece who have an ability to pack fuzzy chords and ringing guitar sounds into true pop songs, but that is also something that's been executed by everyone from South and The Stills to Ride and Slowdive. I can only hope Whirlaway have the sense to avert their talents from making retreads of decade old songs and turn their aptitude towards tomorrow's unheard sounds.