Golden Showers. OK, that’s out of the way …
Shaped by early 90’s indie rock, Shower the People You Love with Gold is a moody and appealing new LP by Western Civ. This Chapel Hill, North Carolina 3-piece and its support players cite Built to Spill and Modest Mouse among its influences, but a better comparison would be Dinosaur Jr. or Pavement.
Loosely bound melodies buzz and shimmer out of the guitars, using harmony and dissonance, shine and mud to set the scene. Likewise, various vocal styles ranging from a soft, nearly spoken mumble to a falsetto swoon add character. Rhythms plod or skip to steady drum beats and harmless but dutiful bass lines, while synths and the occasional oddity fill out the edges. These elements combine to explore a variety of moods, often doing so within a single song. And these shifts are negotiated with some skill.
Shower the People You Love with Gold‘s producer’s previous credits include REM, Superchunk, and Dinosaur Jr. After a trifling start with “Inkblot Candor”, the album finds its legs on “Capitol Steps”, a song that exemplifies Western Civ’s transitional ability. At first, the vocal follows the drum cadence as the music moves with urgency. But the tension is snapped in half when the song breaks into its loud chorus, the fuzzy, distorted guitar churning out chords with the driving bass line behind a snapping snare drum. After the chorus, the song cools off as the electric guitar strums away listlessly under a modest reverb and chorus effect. A soft lead vocal with backing is followed by a piercing dual guitar attack that soon leads back into another driving chorus.
One of the album’s highlights is “I Am a Waterfall!”. Here, the steady beat, ranging bass line, and chiming guitars invoke a lighter atmosphere. But Western Civ can’t resist; soon, the song gets its mood swings, tense one minute, relieved the next. Without abandon, the song dares to release a few unpredicted bursts of exuberance. But these quickly pass, and the cycle of moods continues. As they do on a few other songs on Shower, Western Civ sometimes resembles contemporary indie band The Black Kids, if only for a few moments.
Some of the LP’s moodiness disappears in the album’s latter half, excluding track 10. That bipolarity is replaced by a lighter, more consistent summer sound. Many of these songs also employ fewer vocals in favor of longer instrumental stretches, allowing the guitars to explore. A prime example of this is “Tuesday”, which starts with light guitar melodies that move forward and finally crescendo at chorus’ end, following the vocal “Deep fascination takes control I find”. The song’s guitar themes are explored, sans vocal, to a constant beat. “Tuesday” is a pleasing summer song.
While Shower has some mediocre tracks, it only has one dud: “Travel Song”. It’s a song with a full sound but it has all the flavor of dishwater. Also, the nearly 7 minute album closer, “KCP”, doesn’t quite fit with the other songs. And, worse, the transitions between parts don’t work nearly as well as they do in other songs. The saving grace for “KCP” is an instrumental stretch that kicks off 4 minutes in. Compelling guitar melodies and figures, and the rhythmic pace changes stretch until song’s end.
Shower the People You Love with Gold is Western Civ’s 3rd release since 2005. This LP succeeds in remaking the sounds of early 90’s indie rock elites, and using its sonic approach to shape songs rich in mood with a liberal style. This is a good find for fans of the period who hunger for something new.