There are advantages and drawbacks to being so astonishingly devout to the most basic, meat-and-potatoes garage-emo as The Trouble Starts are. First of all, this music is almost sure to remind you of those awesome times in high school of drinking in basements (or garages, appropriately enough) and jamming out on the basic kick and snare, cheap bass and Fender Strat. And indeed, this band is almost good in spite of the leathery croon of the lead singer who sort of sounds like if Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds thought he was Chris Martin — it’s like they overcome this with the most ardently traditional rock and roll mechanisms throughout the whole album like Finch-type palm muting, 16th-note hat runs that might remind you of The Folk Implosion if you’re like me, and then the close guitar picking of Jeff Tweedy or Britt Daniel — all lo-fi mechanisms which are quintessentially trademark of the 2000s, as it were.
The drawback, then, and actually after side a is where I officially decided this was a great album, but is the monotony that comes with this very bare-bones instrumental sameness. And not that Frontiers should be an EP — actually I like its bulbous full-album status, very much feeding into the indulgence draw of the whole thing and betokening wide open spaces (at one point in “Faulkner” which is the side b opener but nonetheless listenable the singer references his “Western soul”). The crashing guitars of “Golden Silver” remind me of Stephen Malkmus and the boys (or girl, if we’re talking about the Jicks). Actually I was kind of hoping this song would be an instrumental so I could get away for a while from this guy’s pretty-boy-wonder serenading. Luckily the spaces between verses (or wordless choruses if you want to get all Jim James about it) offer these swift little pockets of some potent guitar climaxes. One thing I like about this song and this album in general is that the band avoids the temptation to devolve into punk rock — things remain more pastoral and grandiose, as if they get enough feeling out of, say, Santa Fe or a town like that that they don’t feel the need to infiltrate a big city and be overly political. That’s never been how great music was made, anyway.