In a way it’s ironic that I’m reviewing a band called “The Gods Themselves” RIGHT NOW because I literally JUST came across this news thread of Liam Gallagher saying on the record that like U2 has never done anything for rock and roll, or something like that. Wow, ya know… it seems like just yesterday I frequented that equally heartwarming musing from Steve Earle that Liam’s brother Noel was “one of the worst songwriters of all time” (it’s like gee Steve Earle, feel free to stop looking like a giant penis at any time, and maybe we’ll pay more credence to your allegedly artistically ingenuous outbursts). One thing’s for sure: somebody sucks. It’s kinda sure, anyway.
Well, The Gods Themselves definitely don’t suck, and what’s more, they especially don’t-suck in a way that’s particularly belied by their name. That is to say, given the hardly humble nomenclatural presaging of listening to this album, you would expect these songs to be like basic but impeccable, somewhat like Teenage Fanclub’s “December” — something passable as dramatic but very steeped in the basic tradition of the Beatles and the Monkees. Come to find out, these songs wield substance over style (though not being necessarily chopped liver in style either), toggling savorily between post-punk and indie-metal. Here we have a band genuinely influenced by the Dandy Warhols, the fellow Pacific Northwest (as opposed to the Atlantic Northwest I guess), the fellow self-aggrandizing (said band’s initial album goes by the tiptoeing title “Dandys Rule Ok”).
Titled track opener plays as perfect disillusioned Velvet Underground pop (imagine that) and track two “Tech Boys” finds a refreshingly spacey foray into post-punk. The volume really gets cranked up for track three “So Hot” and he** this song is even INFECTIOUS, of all things, imagine that infectious music in 2017, with the incessant repeated chorus “I am / So hot / So hot”.
“Speak in Tongues” finds the male singer coming in sounding frankly obnoxiously like Greg Sage of The Wipers or maybe Guy Blakeslee of The Entrance Band, but the music here hardly drags the album down — rather the groove is maintained and your head will keep nodding, the band playing tight but also sorta loosey-goosey, like in a Jack Black/School of Rock type of way. Also, I’m not sure what he’s saying in the chorus but it’s got an interesting three-bar phrasing, very reminiscent structurally of like the Pixies “Wave of Mutilation,” or most Pixies circa Doolittle, for that matter.
“Cool” starts in about as post-punk as you get… think The Libertines’ “The Good ol’ Days” or Modest Mouse’s “Fly Trapped in a Jar” and… I’m going to make a misogynistic statement here… but right now I’m really missing that guy who was singing the last song. Somehow this girl’s falsetto when it comes in lays across as unnecessarily demure and yielding. Also, as you might have guessed, this song doesn’t have a phrasing unorthodoxy in the chorus, but the mentions of the “sunshine” do facilitate the overall psychedelic vibe here, which almost seems to clash in an original way with the incessant post-punk drums, usually more a call back to reality than to dreaming. A touch of theremin graces this song post-chorus, a very glorious touch. “St. Mary” is more post-punk with voluminous disco drums and an interesting, swirling mix of guitar riffs and chord, which gives way to one of my favorite things in music: the female vocalist rap (yes I am a fan of the Green Day song “Nightlife”). Actually, by the time this song is over, with all the dance motifs going on, you’ll have a hard time recognizing that this isn’t a Lady Gaga album, but… in a good way. Maybe they’ll get to play the Super Bowl.