VULTURE WHALE Long Time Listener First Time Caller (Ol’ Elegante)
On their previous two self-titled LPs, Vulture Whale perfected their deep-fried brand of crunchy guitar pop. On the other hand, the intermissory EP Bamboo You saw frontman Wes McDonald trying out a pseudo-British accent, just in case you weren’t confused enough by their Birmingham roots (Alabama, not West Midlands).
While the quartet has held on tightly to their smirking sense of mischief, its third record Long Time Listener, First Time Caller sees them adapting their deep-fried, alt-country twang into a brand of nuanced hard rock that owes as much to their Southern backgrounds as it does to their Brit-pop explorations. Yes, the guitar work is still riffy and infectious, but this time round there’s a certain sharpened precision that’s less early Kings of Leon and more AC/DC –check opening track Devices, for instance, which sports a Angus Young riff over a groove reminiscent of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life. Elsewhere we still hear touches of 90s lo-fi rock; Friday Night Video Fights could very well be a lost Dinosaur Jr track, and rays of Guided By Voices shine through on the twinkling, twilighting campfighting verses of VCVW.
There’s a certain formula here on this short, ten-track album that clocks in at just over half an hour. We’re talking sharp, punchy, riffs on top of tight grooves, with a strong, Rooney-ish pop discipline and a mix that highlights those bombastic guitar riffs. Still, things are kept interesting by McDonald’s trademark swagger: the anti Bon Iver, his is an attitude rare to music today outside of Steve Tyler’s lecherous leers on American Idol. It’s fresh for the scarcity.
If you’re a fan of fuzzed-out hard rock with traces of Brit-pop–highly recommended.
(Samuel C Wee)