Thursday, September 2, 2010

Past Time - Grass Widow

Past Time

Grass Widow
Kill Rock Stars Records.

SCQ Rating: 70%

Much has been said about Grass Widow’s influences, by way of critics who compile a shortlist of female-fronted bands and consider their job done. Although the theory that this trio references these influences by entitling their full-length sophomore Past Time may be correct, I think Grass Widow had more in mind than to honour stale Sleater-Kinney comparisons. For my money, Past Time cites the fleeting sensation of listening to its rapid-fire twenty-six minutes.

This is a record that requires serious time to take apart, not only because of its brisk run-time but because each song carries over the same sonic touchstones. Although certainly a multi-pronged talent, Grass Widow utilize the same signature techniques – layered, harmonizing vocals and intertwining guitar – on every single track. With only the odd distractions from this basic set-up (a nice violin-accompaniment, some muted organ), Past Time floats by pleasantly yet vaporously for such a guitar-based collection. I mean, Grass Widow aren’t some dream-pop outfit enveloped in haze; they’re a rock band who interlace their six-strings like a late-period Sonic Youth record, who offer spiky garage-rock like a modern day Kinks. Each song is concretely present, instrumentally cerebral in some cases, even, but the restricted palette of this record will divide audiences into two groups: (1) those who instinctively love the first song (and, subsequently, will love all of them) and (2) those who will try, possibly in vain, to separate these songs from their clone-like neighbours. As someone who would describe ‘Uncertain Memory’ for its post-punk bass, free-wielding percussion and lovely vocal harmonies, I clearly belong to the second group as I could describe half of Past Time the exact same way.

This homogenous result feels like a rip-off for the band. For one, Grass Widow’s instrumentation is always mobile, circling itself or interacting in clever ways, and secondly, the trio’s democratic approach to vocals ensures that listeners have at least two different vocal hooks to sing along to. So who’s at fault? Am I short-sighted or is Past Time just not as revelatory as people anticipated following their self-titled release last year? Answers may vary, but here’s a record that will confidently appeal to a sizeable fanbase as surely as it’ll elicit guilt from those who can't break through.

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