adyhawk’s debut attempts to bring grunge back to the fore, billowing and stuttering with modest conviction. The four Vancouver residents have a remarkably similar sound to the Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, and Pedro the Lion, but let’s accept that and get it out of the way. The band is more often than not capable of a sound only heightened by its languorous delivery, perhaps from a beer-puddled basement—let’s imagine the set never ended and the band kept playing through the night, with a couple of kids making out in the corner for an audience. Lead vocalists Duffy Driediger roars with conviction or yawns with resignation, singing out his musings on the night, filling the album with soft-core existentialist ponderations inextricable from their Vancouver base station. The material is as new as it is familiar, but thankfully Driediger is not blessed with the whinges that might make lyrics like “No one cares about me” unbearable.
The reality is that Ladyhawk was recorded “in the back of a furniture factory, amongst chicken and fish processing plants,” which still maintains a grunge axiom rather aptly. The album begins quietly with a two-minute interlude, and such interspersions with hum-drum garage rock tracks like “Came in Brave” save the album from being trite, because employing both paces simply exposes a wider breadth of influence and ability without entirely compromising focus. The band does sound remarkably young, which makes the track “Advice” difficult to swallow, but the lyric “Just because it’s cruel doesn’t mean it isn’t true” is, come to think of it, quite useful.
There’s a difference between building an auspicious foundation and downright aping, and while Ladyhawk ventures unnecessarily into chartered and re-chartered Grohl territory on “Teenage Love Song,” none of the band’s more radio-worthy tracks are miserable enough to warrant vitriol. The album upholds the argument that god-awful familiarity is redeemable when it’s removed from its usual context and distilled by someone with a different perspective. The peripatetic ventures of bands like the French Kicks suffer by their rootlessness; Ladyhawk gains from their own mission statement, which admits a longstanding four-part friendship and a love affair with their hometown, both of which are obvious in their music. Rarely is there a poseur at work here; only a close quartet with an ear for garage rock’s somnambulant side. Their self-proclaimed reverence is, of course, not to people like Chris Cornell but the Replacements, Dinosaur Jr., and Neil Young, and while dozens of new bands name such influences, not all are able to channel them subtly.
The finest tracks on this debut are also the laziest—those skulking guitar numbers awash with nonchalance, like the simple, sexy intro to “Sad Eyes-Blue Eyes,” or the early My Morning Jacket reverberations and mangy guitar denouement on “Long ‘Til the Morning.” It’s when the band stands up soldier-straight that things get boring. While the handclaps on “My Old Jacknife” are fun, the whole atmosphere is at odds with the deliberate earnestness of the other numbers. Likely single “The Dugout” has a memorable chorus, but the lyrics are negligible and all that hammering away holds back the inventiveness that seems to come through slow-paced, almost ad-libbed performances like “New Joker.” On such tracks, the band appears to stumble upon innovative chord progressions and vocal harmonies, bringing an electricity to the album that the pop machinations only try to switch off. The authenticity still buzzes away, though, and from a wellspring of shared history and vision, no doubt more of it will come.