Just as pubs have evolved since the mid-1970s, as has “pub rock.” The style has come a long way (I realize I’m speaking licentiously here) from its early days, when “major labels showed no interest in pub rock groups” . Today, you go into bars and you obviously hear this really glossy brand of corporate shmear (at least in the state of Indiana where I currently reside, although refreshingly I did discover Swervedriver at this North Loop dive in Chicago one time). Sure, lots of people in such establishments might vocally, in conversation, extol things like punk rock or Tom Waits, but you simply don’t go into bars to be abrasive, antagonistic or overly individual (and if you do I hate you, although that could be me sometimes too). Indeed, this music buff at this one tavern I used to go to was like all about jam bands — much more communal, if slightly diluted, entities, meant to forge a sense of camaraderie and solidarity. But then, as we all know, only the blandest music serves ALL purposes, like the stuff you hear in grocery stores.
Somewhere in the middle, then, is today’s “pub rock,” and some of it can be quite tolerable: see The Lumineers, Twenty One Pilots, Imagine Dragons, and maybe, now, Seattle’s My Goodness, which up to this point has evaded Wikipedia fame but nonetheless is produced with the type of mainstream-minded hands that will make you check yourself for if you’re properly dressed for a night out with martinis.
In general, side A of Scavengers ambles forward with poppy surety and not an ABUNDANCE of charms, until “Haunt,” a calm but undulating logical single choice with the anthemic chorus “She’s made a sweet little mess / Now she’s haunting life before”. The methodical way of a calm vocal cloaking textural guitars over languid garage-rock will call to mind Metric, the side project of Broken Social Scene rocker Emily Haines, but something in this songwriting bespeaks just a bit more sacrifice. Then, with its credibility as playable radio fare, “Haunt” still hews out sufficient jazz-minded bridges and key changes, hence appealing to the alt-minded: Dolby Disaster, to be brief (very brief).
By “Short,” we’re back to tepidly listenable post-rock dance-abilly, melancholy and predictably “mired in romance,” so to speak. “White Witches” is a semi-ballsy dive into trip-hop, but at the opening slot of side B, it makes you wonder just what exactly the band is trying to ACCOMPLISH with this overall effort: for instance, the confrontational tone of the title and the opening timbre don’t jibe with what’s eventually a sappy bath of gooey synths, oozing artificial sadness on each other. Elsewhere, side B finds the singer crooning, consistently, with a surplus of caterwaul but a deficiency of true emotion, or meaning. Indeed, My Goodness are taking their best stab at commercial success here, perhaps having forgot about the importance of a unifying VISION’s spot on the album. A couple good songs early on (“Haunt”; “Elevators”) aren’t quite enough to push this LP into essential listening territory. But then, as we all know, singles are the way of pub acts, not that this were always the case.