BAND OF THE WEEK: Volores
"Mountain goth" turns out to be so much more than that.
My interest was piqued when I read a little introductory bio about Volores somewhere, it said there that ‘Ages’ (the title of their debut album that comes out today - yes, this week we return to right now music on Band Of The Week instead of stuff from last year, or records that’ll come out in like May but that I promise you’ll love!) celebrates, and I’ll quote, “the shared musical passions that brought the Maxwells together – from Leonard Cohen and Elliot Smith to The Cure and Interpol.” Now then, I usually don’t take references to Leonard Cohen lightly and whenever someone has the gall to compare themselves to the man in any way, the first loud groan you’ll hear from the biggest dismissive snob in the room comes from me. Also Elliott and The Cure are held to an almost hallowed esteem for me. Still, the wait that sentence is worded (I don’t know if they wrote the blurb themselves, I have to say - it’s not signed, but it’s on their official website) got some respect from me, it’s not like “go listen to us, we sound like those”, it’s more like “we both dig cool people and we did a record because we love those other ones”. Know what I mean?
So I checked them out when there was still only one song available, the title track which was the first single and video (two more came out in the meantime), and before playing it I discovered the couple in question, the “Maxwells”, were actually Shelby Maxwell and her husband Nathen Maxwell, who happens to be the bassplayer for Flogging Molly. I’ve been a huge fan of their Celtic punk for decades, I love how they tackle both personal and political issues, portraying a very typically Irish melancholy and longing with raging punk, while also never losing sight of the power of a catchy song. Still, if you’re not a fan, don’t worry - apart from a similar sensibility in the way they tackle emotional subjects, there’s really nothing much to connect them to Volores musically. Anyway, it was a lot of info and references already and by I was super curious to hear what that damn song sounded like.
So I pressed play. And if you just did too, and it’s your first time listening to them, I get it if you’re a little underwhelmed. I was too at first, I admit. I mean, it’s a good song, I didn’t think there was anything terribly wrong with it, but it felt somehow understated, nothing there to make me go “wow”. There was, however, a strange kind of moroseness to it that made me give it another go. The lyrics are simple, clear, but at the same time thought-provoking, tackling an issue as deep as the different stages of life and getting older with grace and maturity, when it could easily have fallen to cliché. “Built for love but not built to last,” indeed. And Shelby’s voice. That is actually the most immediate aspect that makes you stick around and play the song again even if you don’t really know why - she has that sort of confident, natural delivery, soothing and sweet but also able to rock out, to spout sarcasm, to sneer or be quietly sinister, like she amply proves on most other songs of the album. There’s a certain PJ Harvey-ness to her, and that’s another thing I don’t throw around lightly. A fun pic on Volores’ Facebook reveals Freddie Mercury and David Bowie tattoos on her legs, so she’s inspired by the very best. That’s a good sign.
After a couple of spins, that song really gets under your skin, a subtle catchiness becomes noticeable and before you know it you’re already singing that rousing chorus unashamedly. The same thing happened with the two following singles, even if they showed slightly different sides of the band. ‘All That We Could Need’ is an almost poppy opener to the album, while the final single ‘Carrion Cry’ and its silly Halloweeny video turned out to be a gothy, tongue-in-cheek, languid ballad that you can imagine either Danzig or Matt Skiba singing. “It’s just death, don’t be fazed”. It’s bubblegum darkness, but it’s still darkness, and that’s a constant throughout the album. They call themselves jokingly “mountain goth”, and it’s one of those wacky things that actually make sense the more you think about it, so it just might stick. Even if they show a lot more than that on this debut album.
I had to use this pic, because once you give it a couple of spins, ‘Ages’ does feel like it was put together just like that, a cool musical couple sitting around with their favourite records (and hey, their good taste continues - Bowie, Siouxsie, Tom Waits, even the ‘Return Of The Living Dead’ soundtrack which features real gems like Roky Erickson, T.S.O.L. or 45 Grave!), and coming up with their own songs. Drenched in gallons of music with only one common denominator - being awesome - but never really openly evoking one of them in particular. There’s post punk (and punk tout court, too), there’s folk, there’s Americana, there’s straight up rock’n’roll and the good kind of pop. There’s head-boppin’, there’s dancing, but there’s also darkness and melancholy and sadness. And though the full album was only revealed today, once you get past the three opening songs which are the singles, a few shining gems are already emerging from the remaining nine. The dynamics of ‘Genevieve’, for instance (with a great ‘just how long do I wait around to die?’ lyrical channeling of Townes Van Zandt), which starts out sombrely but really lets loose as the song progresses, or the monochrome ‘Feed The Fraud’, which lulls you in with the opening line “maybe right in the darkness is where it belongs”, and yes, it does. Perhaps above all, closer ‘Glass’, a heart-stopping grim ballad with amazing percussive work by drummer Art Brown really adding to the atmosphere, while Shelby adds yet another layer of depth to her voice. It’s the best way to close out a record, and it hints at the great things Volores can still do. We’re listening!
‘Ages’ is out today!
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