With songs as sonically dysfunctional as the lives in their themes, flavours and attitude at times bordering on dissonant, Versus is one of those albums which nags and pesters until it has attention involved in its mischievous challenge. The release is the new and third album from US garage rock/pop duo Eureka California, a band from Athens, Georgia who over the past three years or so has increasingly stirred up eager fuss for their sonic psychosis around an intimate and self-referential lyrical devilry.
Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Jake Ward and drummer Marie A. Uhler, Eureka California made its first mark with the Modern Times EP in 2011, the band at that point a trio. The following year saw the release of debut album Big Cats Can Swim; its awareness stoking success then potently built on by firstly a 7” split with Good Grief in 2013 but more so by well-received second album Crunch a year later. The pair of encounters also saw the band as the duo now luring fresh spotlights with Versus, their first offering recorded in a studio.
It opens with Eureka California’s Night In, a pop jangle with thumping beats and a hungry horde of riffs around the expressive tones of Ward. There is a seventies power pop/punk feel to the track and a raucous feistiness which sets the theme and tone for the album. Like The Undertones/Only Ones meets The Hives whilst spaced out on toxic pizza, the song is a rousing start to the album swiftly backed up by the just as addictive Sign My Name With An X. It too has rebellion in its creative belly and belligerence in its touch as it engineers another slice of bracing garage punk pop. Imagining Melvins and The Replacements colluding with The Super Happy Fun Club gives a hint at the spirit raising, imagination inciting exploit. As all tracks bar two, the song is a swift, psyche infesting shot of creative adrenaline barely touching two let alone three minutes; just diving in, rushing out, and leaving greed loaded exhaustion in its wake.
The fuzzy pop ‘n’ roll of Another Song About TV strolls in next, its initial lure a scuzzy blaze which settles down for a hook stocked flirtation of guitar and voice. Uhler’s rhythms have a less imposing nature to their swings this time around but certainly have meat to their jabs and devilment in their invention across the brief and contagiously sweet incitement before it disappears in an instant to be replaced by the dirtier and more sonically irritable Sober Sister. The track soon has ears bristling in pleasure and thoughts grabbing the lyrical prowess and tenacity which swings through digs and humour at the turn of a syllable whilst spotlighting moments and experiences seemingly twisted from the listener’s own.
Through the grouchy bounce of Ghosts, growling sounds and vibrant vocals uniting to seriously captivate, and the acoustic off-kilter charm of Fear and Loathing in the Classic City, band and album just tighten their grip on ears and appetite. The following Cobwebs on the Wind then sees them uncage more rapacious riffs and chords within a muggy and forcibly enticing invitation to body and spirit before Caffeine lays its raw balladry on ears with initially melancholic causticity which brews up into a raucous tempest of noise and emotion.
Surf rock meets post punk is one aspect of the compelling Realizing Your Actuality which steps up next, its early sultry coaxing over steely rhythms irresistible and only reinforced by the corrosive crescendos which erupt then fall before taking over the track’s thick and inescapable persuasion for extended periods. Weezer-esque in its calm, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club toned in its predacious exploits, the track adds another big peak to the successes of Versus.
Another acoustic incitement in the reflective shape of Everybody Had a Hard Year steers eager ears the way of album closer I Will Write Mine Over Potomac and its own melodic caress leading to ravenous sonic and rhythmic ferocity. A song about “loneliness and fraying nerves”; the track ebbs and flows in intensity with thoughtful calms and a raw agitation which almost grinds on the senses. Though finding it a slow burner compared to others within Versus, it is an enthralling proposal which just gets under the skin as deeply as the album succeeds as a whole.
It might be pushing it to say that Versus is going to be the most unique album you hear this year yet everything about it is fresh and seeps Eureka California distinctiveness. Plus it rocks like a bitch and that is more than good enough for us.
Versus is out now via HHBTM Records and @ https://eurekacalifornia.bandcamp.com/album/versus
Pete RingMaster 06/04/2016
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