At long last The Purrs are back with their follow up to 2010's Tearing Down Paisley Garden. About damned time i say.
They released 2 of the 10 tracks here on a single at the end of last year, so this is only 80% new music to a fan like me. If you were not lucky enough to track down the 7", then this is all new to you. Lucky -- you get 20% more new content now than i do...
The thing to note is that the band has been through a recent lineup change. Liz Herrin has been added on guitar and backing vocals. Her presence on backing vocals is really noticeable, and is a very nice effect.
The album starts off with The Promises We Made, a fast rocker in a vaguely Rolling Stones style. The drums are steady and flat while the guitars grind along and vocalist Jima howls. It flies past, driving the listener along, and right into You, the Medicine, and Me, which was my favorite of the two tunes on the recent 7" single. This is a vaguely moody tune, the guitars clattering over another steady drum riff as Jima sings call and response with Ms. Herrin.
The A-side to the previous single, Rotting on the Vine is next. I still think that the vocals here are a little overproduced, meaning that Jima sounds layered over all the instruments, dominating them when the guitars really need to dominate, to almost subsume his voice. Still, it has a great poppy pace and is a head-boppingly good tune..
The next song starts slowly, tinkling guitars and a rolling beat. It is called The Fire Next Door, and on the choruses it chimes like mid-era R.E.M. This is The Purrs approaching jangle-pop and adding a little fuzz to it. Great stuff. I love the way this songs moves along.
It ends with what i think is supposed to be a recording of fire, just a hissing popping crackling noise, over which a funky riff rises as the band playing darkly and overdriven. Cemetery Johnny is a noisy tune, the distortion at higher levels than The Purrs have used in years -- they approach MBV fuzziness! Given the lighter, poppier sound of the rest of the record, this is an odd break in the middle of the disk. I think it works within the context of the whole album though.
Cracked Head is another poppy rocker, the band playing fast and furious. I really like the choruses, which feature Ms. Herrin la-la-ing through distortion, an effect that reminds me of early Pixies.
Fade Away is a slower, moodier song. The guitars are stretched out and grinding, while the drumming is lethargic. This reminds of some of the longer tunes on earlier Purrs records, except that this is under 6 minutes long. It just seems to me like the distorted guitar parts should have jammed out, J. Spaceman-style, for ten minutes or so... Maybe that is how they do it live...
The next tune is So Fucking Beautiful, which gets [Explicit] next it because of the exclamative profanity. Whatever. It is a mid-tempoed rocker, a steady piano riff covered in layers of crunchy guitar. Jima spits out his lyrics, almost sarcastically.
Another slower song is next. On Your Favorite Color Jima gets back to his Brit-pop roots with a song that reminds me of The Verve. It grooves along nicely, with piano once again under the layers of guitar.
And finally the record ends with Over and Out, a happy rocking tune, guitars clattering against each other over a good rocking drum beat. It is a nice end to the record, just grinding along to the end.
A few observations from someone who has been listening to The Purrs for several years. First up, this is the happiest record The Purrs have ever done. The lyrical matter is not as dark as it has been. Instead of many songs about drugs, here Jima sings about medicine and mental illness a few times. That is just an observation -- i make no judgments. However, the tunes also seem more upbeat. The first half of the record consists of upbeat rockers, tunes that belong on a radio, tunes made to be played on the stereo as you barrel down the highway, tunes that no doubt get the crowds bouncing along at their shows. And i find that i like the new upbeat Purrs music. It really grooves along nicely, and i find myself bouncing along to this record quite often.
I also have to add that the addition of Ms. Herrin on backing vocals is a nice touch. Her lighter voice accompanies Jima's deeper drawl nicely, adding a new depth to their songs.
So i think that The Boy With the Astronaut Eyes is The Purrs most accessible record to date. I really like the direction the band is going in, and can't wait to see where they go next.