RINGO DEATHSTARR: Ringo Deathstarr (Club AC30, 2020)

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“Since they began in the late 2000s, Ringo Deathstarr have been one of the finest exemplars of blown-out shoegaze and amped-up dream pop. Their albums are home to an unbroken string of memorable songs delivered with just the right blend of noise and melody, all driven home with a heavy dose of glitter and feedback. It’s good to see that after taking a few years off from issuing records, 2020’s self-titled album finds the band doing the same thing they’ve always done. Almost. This time around, the trio have broadened and softened their approach a little, leaning more towards the melodic and opening up their arrangements a little. “God Help the Ones You Love” and “Heaven Obscured” darken and lighten the mood respectively with their gothy, Lush-like atmosphere, “Disease” is a wobbly, lo-fi ballad that sounds like it was dubbed from an old cassette, “Be Love” is a hazy hallucination of a song set to a wonkily baggy beat, and the fuzzily metallic singsong waltz “Cotton Candy Clouds” is a happily weird way to end the album. These slight detours — and the super-poppy tunes like “Gazin” that dot the landscape — give the more traditionally heavy shoegaze songs more room to breathe, and when they hit, they punch harder than a pneumatic hammer. “Once Upon A Freak” is loping, Medicine-esque, and has giant smears of guitar obscuring the melody, the guitars on “Just Like You” threaten to overpower the rock-solid rhythm section, and “Lazy Lane” has the sound one might imagine a swarm of a billion bees might have. The balance of bright and dark, heavy and light is something a little new for the band, and they pull it off well here, never tipping too far in one direction and providing a coherent overall listening experience. The changes Ringo Deathstarr have made and the new avenues they explore only serve to make them more interesting and help keep the group firmly in place at the head of the shoegaze revival pack” (All Music)

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