Former Ponys frontman returns with a stellar set of hazy, gloomy dream-pop ballads.
In The Red Records, 2013
8.2 / 10
Jerred Gummere had already made a name for himself fronting the insanely catchy, influential Chicago garage-rockers The Ponys, and now with Bare Mutants he shifts from the frantic, psych-tinged noise-rock of his previous band to down-tempo, laid-back dream-pop that’s every bit as catchy and even more tripped-out, sounding like 50s music you can slow dance to, only with a foggy, atmospheric sheen over everything that gives The Affliction a sound that’s both catchy and hypnotic.
Opener “Without You” sets the template: steady, languid rhythms; fuzzed-out, two-chord riffs; and droning organ, with Gummere’s deep, commanding vocals upfront in the mix, giving the songs a powerful presence that many similar-minded psych and shoegaze-type bands are lacking. While nearly all the songs follow this same formula at first, most eventually morph into heavy rockers, providing an almost euphoric release after the slow, steady buildups.
One can almost picture teenagers slow dancing to the girl group-inspired sounds of both “The Fire In Your Hands” and “Crying With Bob” at some sort of high school dance in the late 50s, but in an alternate-dimension, David Lynchian late 50s, due to the eerie, strung-out vibe of the songs. Also, the lyrics on the latter about how “life took a dump on me today” probably wouldn’t have gone over well back in the real late ’50s. “I Suck At Life” sails along at a similarly narcotic clip, until a great, histrionic guitar solo comes busting through the mix out of nowhere, snapping the listener out of their hypnotized stupor.
Not every track is so morose. Bare Mutants percussionist and backup vocalist Jeanine O’ Toole (Also of Chicago’s The 1900s) sings lead on “Nothing Is Gold,” a song that switches back and forth between sing-along kids’ song and old-school country-western, while “Cunt,” in spite of its name, is a fun, upbeat rocker with beautiful boy-girl harmonies and guitar riffs that sound like they came straight from early American rock and roll. Songs like these and the breezy “na na na”-chorused closer, “Scars,” give The Affliction a variety that the languidness of its first several songs never hinted at, and makes for an album for both fans of psych-rock and fans of just-plain-great songwriting.
Purchase: Bare Mutants – The Affliction