Sunday, February 19, 2012
Trailer Trash Tracys first caught my ear in 2010 when I happened upon No Pain in Pop's compilation from the year before. Their track 'Strangling Good Guys' featured, and luckily did nothing of the sort to smear the fascination I had with what was an intriguing number. It was comfortably nostalgic, reminiscent of bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Still Corners, but also a herald to groups like the infallible Smith Westerns and Best Coast. A whole year later and we were handed 'Candy Girl', another stunning track. My anticipation for a full-length debut grew, Trailer Trash Tracys' vintage experimentation the seemingly perfect sound with which to push forward a musical career. A number of influences and an artistic sensibility emerge on 'Ester', but for me, the latter is the outfit's major shortcoming.
It is often cited that being accessible and being experimental are mutually exclusive values but in many cases the presumption is wrong. I've often highlighted Radiohead, but I'll do it again. 'Kid A' managed to do what many people though impossible. Throw something truly different out there and do so in such as way that people 'got' it. Trailer Trash Tracys fail to grasp this concept. Instrumentals following a 'solfeggio scale' are densely layered on the album, indulgent and pompous and refusing to recognise that having a structure does not detract from the uniqueness of a record. Throughout 'Ester' the band's tendency to overcomplicate a melody and over think a musical phrase makes such elements dry and dull and lacking in any sort of immediacy. Simply put, the LP sounds as though whatever potential the tracks had has been removed by constant alterations and the resulting holes patched by layers of lo-fi production and unnecessarily flatulent effects. It's disappointing.
Perhaps I'm being overly critical though. There are a few nice numbers on 'Ester', one of which is the re-recorded version of 'Candy Girl'. Just as infectious as it was when it was first dropped, the drum beat carries a consistent rhythm, the shoegaze guitar moody and subtle and forgiving. Susanne Aztoria's vocals swell and swoop, at their sweetest and at their most surreal. Evocative of Emily Kokal from Warpaint, there is a self-assurance here that appears lost in the majority of the tracks and their frustrating and indecisive nature. In the number 'You Wish You Were Red' there is a pleasant simplicity, the reverb not overly annoying as it softens a ballad-like lament. Strong guitar and bass allow the music to in many ways, simply breath, which is a formula I wish the band had followed a lot more.
While 'Candy Girl' survived its inclusion within the album, I fear 'Strangling Good Guys' did not. Sapped of its vigour by numerous futile revisions, the initially refreshing drums have been drowned in reverb, the guitar suffering a similar fate. The psychedelic 'Rolling Kiss the Universe' and its complexity brings a headache rather than an immersive and thought-provoking listen, the cluttered 'Dies in 55' offering no respite. The distractingly fast guitar on 'Engelhardt's Arizona' creates a nice contrast between vocals and instrumentation, but it's an accidental combination. The remaining few numbers did nothing for me. 'Starlatine' and 'Turkish Heights' brood pointlessly, indistinguishable lyricism musing their own warped sensibilities, and 'Black Hole's similar form lacks any relative variation.
All in all, 'Ester' is a bold opening statement for Trailer Trash Tracys to make. Whether or not they fail in relaying it, it is a bold statement. Sometimes their subtleties balance their complexities to form truly intriguing numbers, the instrumentation interesting and worthy of any listener's attention. Other times the band's need to constantly refine means some of the better elements are left on the cutting room floor, the resulting song flaccid and dreary in its execution. The fact that the album took two years to record reflects their indecision and makes you wonder. Is it worth waiting another couple of years for a sophomore LP? Stream 'Engelhardt's Arizona' below and grab the full album from the Tracys website here.