Raised By Wolves / Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives
2005 / 2006
B+ / B+
love to hear innovative new sounds as much as anyone. One can only listen to so many bands trying to be the next Pavement or Joy Division or (insert hotly-tipped indie band here) without craving something different. And though I’m far from being jaded in this respect, I still feel that repetition leads to complacency. This isn’t meant to disown any of the My Bloody Valentine or Strokes records that I love—it just means that sometimes I need a break. There are some albums that defy this logic for me, however. Most recently it was The National’s Alligator, and before that it was Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights. These are albums that are both immediately listenable and prove a greater worth upon numerous listens without sounding tired or clichéd. There are many singular examples of why this seems to work, but it usually amounts to a slight straying from the ordinary parameters to great effect. In essence, they’re making the old rock tricks sound fresh again. Voxtrot is one of those bands.
Both Raised by Wolves and Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives have an uncanny consistency to them. Frontman Ramesh Srivastava’s lyrical delivery remains central to all ten songs from both EPs, but appears to exist in perpetual harmony with the backing instruments. One never dominates over the other. Whether the band frolics over a relaxed surf rock track like “Long Haul” or plows over the air with power chord melodies on “Missing Pieces,” everything seems to exist in its right place. Listening to these EPs reminds me of watching Marlon Brando in The Godfather: a great leading man displaying his craft in front of a meticulously planned backdrop.
Raised by Wolves’ title track provides us with an accurate primer to Voxtrot’s strengths. Srivastava never cracks (but never really goes all the way for) his slight falsetto, but keeps his words always audible and interesting. The music shifts back and forth between foot-tapping verses and nostalgic chorus bops that recall memories of The Clash. The shifts continue with “The Start of Something,” a rather simple rock tune that contains a post-punk-like break in the middle that elevates the track a tier or two. Though the opening seconds of “Missing Pieces” might lead us to believe that the guitars are set to rule, Srivastava constrains their energy with probably his most enigmatic performance yet recorded. Despite wringing a little too much emotion from their guitars on “Wrecking Force”’s chorus, this EP serves to paint us a picture of solid band that occupies musical headspace somewhere between Belle & Sebastian and Throbbing Gristle (two bands that Srivastava cites on his blog as influences).
Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives, then, serves to prove that Raised by Wolves was not a five-song fluke. Nothing on MSD&W; is as immediately catchy as RBW, but the second contains nary a misstep. “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives” finds a gruffer guitar sound slowly blending into itself for a swirling four-minute slow burn, while the use of piano accents on “Fast Asleep” and especially “Rise Up in the Dirt,” inch the band towards the edge of the twee pop/rock label with great success. The latter of these two tracks may be the best that the band has yet laid down in studio.
“Soft & Warm,” the EP’s closing track, provides a wonderful validation for each of the ten songs on these two EPs and why they seem to succeed so well. Here and elsewhere, there is never an excess: Voxtrot understands when to turn it up and when to turn it down (or off). With these two EPs, they’ve not necessarily creative or innovative. But they understand exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it extremely well.
Reviewed by: Matt Sheardown
Reviewed on: 2006-04-07