Sic Alps’ self-titled new album maintains a pop sophistication among its garage rock jams.
2012, Drag City Records
7.8 / 10.0
Could 2012 be the flagship year for indie garage rock? Bedroom pop rock took the crown last year, but with three Ty Segall efforts, a solid Thee Oh See’s sequel album, and now Sic Alps’ self-titled fifth album arriving in fine form, garage rock sounds more acceptable and engaging than ever. And why not? Garage rock is the true working man’s rock and don’t give me that Bruce Springsteen bullshit. There’s nothing more humble than some guys getting together with their near-broken amps and rocking in the place where their cars leak oil. Melody doesn’t have to be perfect as long as the songs’ messages come from guttural emotions. Alps’ front-man Mike Donovan knows this, and even with his rough-edged singing and the Alps’ roaring jam sessions, the songs on Sic Alps maintain a pop sophistication.
The fuzzy intermission of “Drink Up!” shines without being too abrasive, and leaves you craving what lays ahead ‘til the album’s end (and you might also want a salty beverage). Donovan takes time to be reflective on “Polka Vat”, “Hear the whistle? / That is the sound / Of the town / I live in”. Donovan’s an indie pro; working in several other bands (The Ropes, The Church Steps) and once owned indie label Dial Records, so if you pick up a hint of old-school indie behind Alps’ sound, that would be the reason. Frankly, it’s one of the best things about Sic Alps because it proves how endearing an unrefined sound can be when compared to all the electro-gadgetry of newer bands.
That’s not to say Sic Alps don’t occasionally add some jelly to their toasted bread and butter. The album’s final two tracks, “Rock Races” and “See You On The Slopes”, tone down the squelch heard in tracks like “Wake Up, It’s Over II” for near chamber pop arrangements. “Rock Races” incorporates piano and strings while Donovan gives a breathy vocal performance. “See You On The Slopes” simply uses piano and waves to end the album in somber fashion. Even with those detours from their normal fang-baring arrangements, Sic Alps close the album out as strong as they begin it.