Salad Boys: Metalmania (Trouble in Mind, 2015)

Es inevitable cuando se habla de grupos neozelandeses relacionarlos con el sonido de Flyin Nun. Salad Boys parece que no van a ser una excepción. Suenan muy Pop, suenan a The Bats, a The Chills. Tienen las claras influencias Jangle de The Byrds, pero también tienen ese hilillo conductor del Folk-Pop de los ochenta que practicaban Rem o The Feelies.

“When Metalmania is good, it’s nearly transcendent, as much as a pop album can be. The melodic kick in the last minute of opener “Here’s No Use” is as bracing as sunlight slanting through dust-motes on a beautiful day, and “Dream Date”, the album’s first single, is driving, energetic, and charming. Later single “No Taste Bomber” is perfectly noisy, just so slightly psychedelic, one of those songs it’s impossible not to nod your head to on first listen (and it only gets further under one’s skin the more one listens). “I’m a Mountain” is crafted so tautly that the chanted lyric “I won’t let you fuck it up” takes on new dimensions with each repetition. “Hit Her and Run” takes a while to build: though it feels like initially it might grow into a Byrds-like California country song, it turns on its heel into a thick wall of distortion.
What Metalmania is slightly short on is the underlying grit present in much of the work of Salad Boys’ forebears, one of the elements that kept even the poppiest of the Flying Nun bands (the Bats, the Chills, Able Tasmans) from sounding too cloying. Existential sadness haunts so much of New Zealand’s indie pop but there are three or four tracks on Metalmania that feel like dreamy filler, tracks so airy that they never quite make the emotional impact they could or should. There isn’t quite enough dissonance to them, not enough low end, not enough movement, not enough curiosity. Having similar tempos and chord structures, these filler songs bleed into one another; their grounding is too stable, too comfortable.
Since the memorable tracks on Metalmania are so good, the tracks that don’t quite rise to the occasion feel all the more frustrating. Yes, this is a debut album for a relatively young band (they’ve been around less than three years), and to hold Salad Boys to such a standard might feel a little unfair, but they’ve proven themselves capable of holding their own with the best indie pop their country has to offer. The fact that they’ve set the bar so high for themselves is, in the end, a testament to how exquisite their songwriting at its best can be” (Pitchfork)

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