Garageland – Do What You Want

Garageland
Do What You Want

So, here in America, we find ourselves in the year 2001. What has the last few years given us? Well, we’ve seen riots at Dave Matthews Band concerts, lived with fears of children with concealed weapons, witnessed the deregulation of radio that allows four companies own some 90 odd percent of all US radio stations, all presided over by a leader with questionable legitimacy. Seems pretty bleak, doesn’t it? How did we get here? As reviewers, what classifications are we using these days? Rap-metal? (What?) Emo? (I thought all music was supposed to be emotional, but now we have to denote that fact?) Math rock? (Now we’re building equations?) Stop this ride, ma, I want to get off.
Thankfully, sometimes I get disks like this to review. This I can comfortably just dub rock and roll. There are some noisy touches, much like the pop that was being made in the 90s and featured on college radio. The concept of pop, even most of the stuff unleashed by the post-Nirvana flood, has been the same since rock began: simple, soulful songs that get stuck in your head and speak to you, and all the while flipping a little bird to the mainstream. Now that the mainstream is openly flipping US off (check out all of those Limp Bizkit and Eminem photos with middle fingers featured prominently, and wonder aloud who else could they pointing that bird at), I can’t help to wonder where it went wrong. This album may cause you to think back to the days when “corn” was something you ate and your “biscuits” were light and fluffy.
Tune into the first track, “Love Song.” This immediately should make you think of the Pixies, with huge lead guitar bends, a rhythm guitar holding down the chords, and a bass-vamp for the verses. This “quiet on the verse, loud on the chorus” pattern is a sound that pops up a lot on this disk. The band is at their best on the rockers: “Trashcans” is a nice Blur-styled workout, while “What You Gonna Do?” and “Burning Bridges” are both reminiscent of something you might find on Radiohead’s “Pablo Honey.”
On some of the slower numbers, though, the disk loses a bit of momentum. The band (or perhaps A+R?) felt the need to supplement many of the slower moments with keyboards and strings. The production is excellent, but is just a little too slick on those slow numbers. These production flourishes may satisfy the casual rock fan who is used to hearing Live and Journey, but it tends to sap some of the energy and immediacy of the performances. These guys are rockers at heart, and the frills just slow them down.
The disc’s best moment is a blast of Pixies-meets-Weezer bliss called “Not Empty,” where Garageland sings about their own predicament. “We just came out of nowhere/ I think that we’re headed back again/ headed back into those empty streets/ I want to be free/ Not empty.” (Not “Empty Vee,” methinks.) This excellent song seems to sum it up: What they’re doing may not help them meet Carson Daly, but there are plenty of people who are going to love hearing their rock as much as the band loves to play it. This song is a keeper!
Trends are forced in and out of popular culture these days with alarming frequency. I’m shocked to learn of how few kids these days have even heard of the Pixies, to say nothing of still listening to those records. Personally, I still love this sound. Well-crafted songs and memorable melodies should have been the watermark for popular music for years to come. Instead we’re left with Creed, who sound like any number of local bands in any American city, whose idea of inspiration is the first Pearl Jam album and nothing else. You’d think those that owed their sound more to the very beginnings of the “alternative nation” (i.e. the Pixies, Catherine Wheel, the Replacements, Dino Jr.) would never go out of style, but many who hear this record will find themselves saying “Dude, this is so 1994!” Do What You Want is exactly what these fellows are doing. It is probably no coincidence that these guys are from overseas (New Zealand), where perhaps the musical trends move at their own pace. Who knows, maybe the alternative nation will make another stand. This probably won’t be the record that will bring that revolution about, but it’s still a quality slab of ones and zeroes.