I (usually) really, really don’t like it when people try to trick me. For one, it makes me feel like some mythical bridge-guarding troll, and secondly, fuck you. Tricks are almost never lead to something good. If tricks did lead to something good, they would be pointless. You wouldn’t have to hide a dog’s medication in peanut butter if the administering of the meds was fun. You wouldn’t have to hint at “a nice surprise” later if shopping for shoes wasn’t so fucking terrible to sit through, only to later claim you have a headache and just need some “me time.”
Sorry if that was awkwardly personal, I’m working through some shit right now.
Up until the 56-second mark of “Gooski’s Ladder,” the opening track from Tidal Arms self-titled sophomore release, I wondered, “What exactly is this bullshit?” A trick, perhaps? It wasn’t terrible, but … it sounded like a local rock band trying it’s hardest to sound angry. In the history of all first minutes of albums, it had to be the rockiest start I’ve ever heard. Fortunately, after this musical awkwardness, this odd Brooklyn-based trio started to make some goddamned sense.
Motherfuckers tricked me.
I have a hard time pinning a genre to Tidal Arms, except to say at the very core of their sound is solid, cohesive experimental rock. I do hate to use the word “rock” though. To many, rock has come to mean radio-friendly, safe, and perhaps even unoriginal and pandering. This is not the case with Tidal Arms. They are heavy-handed, beat-driven rock that a casual listener might mistake for straight-forward rock. But something sinister lurks beneath the surface – a fucking flawless, dense rhythm section. An excellent example of this is “Mirrorbox.” It starts off sounding void and mournful, but at about a minute, the band turns up the dial on the bass line, and it rattles like a muffler about to fall right off an old Cadillac. See “Tide Alarms,” as well.
There is an element of deception in Tidal Arms. Their sound, while dark in places, the vocals are sunny and distant. It’s something that doesn’t sound like it works, but it really does. I find this very evident in a track like “Molasses,” a song about a tragic accident that occurred in Boston in 1919 when a large storage container of molasses burst killing 21 people and injuring 150. I also happen to enjoy obscure history.
There is nothing overly technical in Tidal Arms sound, aside from the odd time signature. They are a very meat-and-potatoes bands that comes down hard on a beat. Yet, for their simplicity, there is something else very complex at work: dynamics. Seemingly awkward and unassuming passages turn into gales of fury and rock-wrath without warning. It is definitely an enjoyable listen that warrants quite a few repeat spins (I am currently on my third). I give it 4/5 stars with the option to add half a star later.
Tidal Arms is out November 26.
Rating: 4/5 Stars