The Sames – You are the Sames

The Sames
You are the Sames

With an opening cut that begins like Autolux and segues into a sound that mixes Polvo and Superchunk, the new album You are the Sames welcomes you into its world of indie-rock splendor. It’s familiar but still fresh, invigorated but not overcome by its influences.

The Sames come to us from Durham, NC, so it’s not entirely surprising to hear echoes of Superchunk and Polvo in their sound – Superchunk in the form of its pop sensibilities coupled with driving energy, Polvo in the form of its slithery bass lines and odd note couplings. Usually bands out of the Triangle area originate in Chapel Hill, though, so it’s something of a surprise to hear of an album like this coming from Durham.

That opening track, “Heart Pine,” sets the bar pretty high. Its verses combine a steady, on-the-beat, choppy guitar with a background guitar that wails and churns like its being played by Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. If you remember how the Lilys album In the Presence of Nothing took great liberties with that sound, you’ll probably find that the Sames have now taken the Lilys and put more rock into it. That same guitar work shows up on other tracks, too, such as “In Liberty Lights,” the beginning of “Butterfly,” and “Downtown” (to a lesser degree).

The rhythm section gets quite a workout on some of these tracks, too, providing a punch that can be lacking in other releases of this kind. For all the other similarities in approach, you never heard the Boo Radleys let loose quite the way the Sames do on “Honorary Wilmingtonian,” “Heart Pine,” and “Downtown.” “Downtown” sounds fairly ordinary and predictable at first, but it has an edge to it by the time it gets to its bridge. There, things get quiet – a steady tom-then-snare beat and a quirky guitar line – before the lead guitar goes off into a riff worthy of Cor-Crane Secret. Yes: the guitar has that sound of being cheap, untuned, and perhaps untuneable, but that’s the idea. I can’t help but wonder whether the lyrics “I wanna take you downtown / Even though there’s no downtown” refer to Durham. Durham might have more of a music scene if it actually had a downtown to speak of (if you’ve been there, I think you’ll know what I mean).

“Bomb Scare” maintains a pretty basic, mid-tempo pace while the guitars blare away in the background. It sounds almost funny to hear someone sing “I’ll meet you outside of the gym,” as though the song were just a pedestrian recounting of a day’s events, and lines like “Don’t be so dramatic” do nothing to counter this sentiment. Elsewhere, the lyrics also mention “lonely, tortured killer bees,” so I guess we’re meant to focus more on the music than the words. That’s fine by me.

“Butterfly” has a jerky rhythm and some Devo-like background synths, but it really comes together near the end. It pauses, with only a keyboard note to be heard, before it builds back into an Oneida-like finish. At 1:48, it’s the most succinct track here. “Like a Song (Really)” comes close – 1:59 – but it sounds a little more like a hastily put together add-on. Its lyrics, again prosaic, feature such lines as “Now we’re here / Now we’re gone / Like the end / Like a song” (I think) and “I saw an ice-cream truck on fire.” At least the latter delivers some imaginative imagery.

This album has a lot to recommend it, and it stands a chance of getting some real attention (or at least some college-radio airplay). I hope it doesn’t go to the band members’ heads, though, to hear that some people consider them the brightest light in the Durham music scene.