Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Multi-Love” (Jagjaguwar)
While I’ve not always saluted the flag raised over modern purveyors of ‘70s AM mellow gold-inspired psychedelic pop, Portland, Oregon’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra has always felt a bit different. The band’s music sounds both 8-track and FLAC; a mixing of ‘70s, white guy R&B/“easy” psych-pop with more modern beats and structures.
“Multi-Love” is a good example. A call and response between the two eras – Supertramp-style organ and groovy sitar cut short by breakbeat rhythms. The cool, dispassionate robots of rhythm harshing your yellow-tinted memories of the polyester itch and chafe of a hot, wet American summer. The production has the band (and, in particular, vocalist Ruban Nielson) less covered in dandelion fluff than on past recordings, Nielson’s keening falsetto slinking over lines like “she doesn’t want to be your man or woman/she wants to be your love” – ‘60s free love, ‘70s key parties, ‘80s androgyny or modern, online virtual physicality? Why choose?
Taken from new album, Multi-Love, released May 26 on Jagjaguwar. The band is also going on tour, starting in May – check out dates on their site or Facebook page.
7” (Wilsuns RC)
“Button Up” (Katorga Works)
Sheer Mag are a Philadelphia-based outfit with an obvious love of ‘70s rawk. Many reviewers have pointed to the obvious indebtedness to blues/hard “classic” rock stalwarts like Thin Lizzy (hell, the band’s logo on their Bandcamp page even looks like a cross between those of Lizzy, Van Halen and, um, early Voivod) and their take on muscular, blues-y riffage. I can’t help but hearing tuneage that would’ve fit nicely with a lot of the 70s output of labels like Stiff Records.
That is, gloriously throwback rock and roll; a messier version of the slick sound of ‘70s FM rock radio. Bands indebted to a leaner, simpler, catchier vision of blues rock; more T. Rex stomp than Led Zeppelin pomp. There’s more than a hint of the fuzzed-out power pop of a Wreckless Eric or The Only Ones on songs like “Hot Lovin’” and “What You Want” from their debut 7” (even the song titles are as ‘70s as bellbottoms and shagwagons, no?). Singer Christina Hallady’s pipes sound like they’re fittin’ to burst under the weight of all that fuzz, as she channels the fiery throatiness of the likes of Joan Jett. On new track, “Button Up” (from an upcoming 7” to be released on Katorga Works), the band sound (a bit) less charmingly messy, but more anthemic. Building from a straight-up Chuck Berry as channeled by Angus Young riff, the song uses an overlay of surprisingly shimmery guitar to accent the proceedings.
This shit is fun – get out your hair brush and sing along, then get out of the house and check them out on tour.