Sonidos que están más cerca del Pop menos convencional, más experimental. Ecos del sonido de Brooklyn, del Math Rock, resuellos Shoegazers y total independencia. Grooms son algo así como unos supervivientes en el difícil mundo de la música del siglo ventiuno.
“Having lived, worked, and created in the ever evolving Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn for over a decade, native Texan Travis Johnson has felt the direct impact of the growth and dissolution that comes with rapid gentrification. His band Grooms practiced, and recorded at Brooklyn’s Death By Audio for seven years (first as Muggabears, then as Grooms) before they were forced out of their spiritual and literal home in November 2014 when DBA shut its doors. A little over a year before, with the band’s income not providing enough money to support any of it’s members, bass player and co-writer Emily Ambruso went on hiatus from the band, leaving Johnson as the only original member. Despite these unfortunate blows, Johnson soldiered on, soon recruiting Jay Heiselmann on bass, and actor/comedian Steve Levine on drums.
Travis Johnson’s relentless perseverance isn’t a central theme, but it’s worth keeping in mind when listening to the 11 songs that comprise the new Grooms album Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair, an album which marks a clear aesthetic and thematic departure from the group’s previous efforts. After months of experimenting with sound collages, samples, and electronic beats, the band recorded an obsessively detailed and melodically complex album, with a heavy focus on mood and texture. Unlike their previous album Infinity Caller (which Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis called “…an exercise in explosion and restraint hallmarked by sweeping guitars, stuttery drums, and cryptic, airy vocals…”) many of the songs on Comb… bring the band’s rhythm section to the fore, and Johnson’s trademark guitar stylings often take a backseat to his psychedelic sample-collages and ambient electronics. Fortunately the new approach works, balancing pop structures with masterful experimental production that shifts in tone and color in harmony with Johnson’s tales of acceptance, loneliness, and impotent violence.
On Comb…, that violence is most evident on “Something Wild”, a song about destroying the high-priced waterfront condos that contribute to the rising cost of living in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and then feeling conflicted about it. Love is the subject matter on “Bed Version” (a song which Johnson describes as “a fantasy about seeing the joy in my girlfriend’s face as she realizes she’s not cosmically alone.”), and the album becomes wistful on “Cross Off” (a remembrance and longing for the good old days when Ambruso was still an active member of the band), but even on these songs Levine’s alternately Krautrock and Elvin Jones-inspired drums, and Heiselmann’s propulsive bass help to maintain the album’s intense atmosphere. Album standouts like “Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair” and “Doctor M” deliver head-bobbing pop hooks as Johnson ponders his long-term struggle with addiction, while other songs, “Savage Seminar,” “Will the Boys?,” and “Grenadine Scene from Inside,” explore the thoughts, and feelings of fictional characters in the films Magnolia, Lost Boys, and Steel Magnolias, respectively.
Whether singing from a fictional or personal perspective, Johnson’s songs on Comb… are all loosely about letting go of bitterness and resentment. Like the Brooklyn neighborhood where he lives and works, his internal real estate is constantly being reevaluated, razed, and rebuilt. Fortunately his personal growth has yielded an album that attentive listeners will find relatable and consistently rewarding” (Press)
La música de Grooms es difícil de definir: una especie de cruce bastardo entre cierto Pop de guitarras de los noventa, con ciertas urgencias y dosis espídicas, expresadas sobre todo en forma de ritmos frenéticos y algunos contrapuntos; Math-Rock, Shoegaze y algunas dosis del DIY tan en boga en los últimos tiempos.
Urgencias y estribillos difíciles. Una mezlca un tanto áspera que Grooms ha sabido conjugar en este Infinity caller.
“Grooms don’t just humbly steward indie-rock nostalgia into our laps like pizza-delivery guys, though. The reason their music is comforting is because the band sounds so, well, comfortable: Grooms have been playing together since before they were even Grooms, and went by the name Muggabears. By now their assured interplay is a joy in itself. Their guitars tangle and pull apart like kite strings, and the drums hit with a gentle splash (or maybe a “plouf”) rather than a crack. From the very first watercolor glimmers of guitar on “Lion Name”, the bass nudging carefully forward and elbowing lead singer Travis Johnson’sPeanuts yelp to the forefront, Infinity Caller announces itself: You can relax, this will be easy on everyone.
This is one of their most fully realized albums, something longtime fans will delight in discovering. Bassist Emily Ambruso’s vocal turns (lead on “Iskra Goodbye,” prominent backing on “Sometimes Sometimes” and many others) have darkened and grown more distinctive and interesting, making her a welcome and equal counterpoint to Johnson. Their songwriting also has developed into something sharper, less atmospheric and blobby. “Play” pivots on a pedal tone, allowing it to swing gracefully between major and minor, and “I Think We’re Alone Now” has one of their stickiest choruses.
It’s a minor music-writing cliché to observe that a derivative band “sound more like themselves” with each passing release, but if Grooms still don’t quite sound like some platonic ur-Grooms, standing on their own and beholden to no one– or something– they do sound like a more fully realized and sharply etched iteration of the indie-rock they clearly love. Their lyric and song titles stir echoes in a way that feels intentional and even playful — they have a song called “Something I Learned Today” in addition to the one called “I Think We’re Alone Now”, and on “Completely”, Johnson sings “I never was the name of the pacifist one” with a cadence and phrasing that brings the non-sequitur reference “Ballroom Blitz” to mind. They know they remind you of that band, whatever that band is, and have some sly fun confusing your memories of exactly which band it is” (Pitchfork)
Nos salimos hoy algo de los cánones del Pop más convencional generalmente tratado en estas páginas para hablar de una agrupación de Brooklyn con una cierta tendencia a investigar un poco más allá y de explorar en terrenos algo menos conocidos no sólo para muchos de sus paisanos sino para toda una generalidad dentro del mundillo de la música popular tal y como la conocemos. Todo este largo preámbulo sirve para introducirnos en la música de Grooms, una banda que, aun partiendo de unas premisas más o menos clásicas, expande su sonido hacia un Pop con miras más experimentales, testando en su música sonoridades que van algo más allá de la mera distorsión o la reiteración. Podemos encontrar paralelismos más o menos cercanos en gentes como Animal Collective o Deerhunter o el personal microcosmos de Bradford Cox, lo cierto es que el acercamiento a la música de Grooms resulta algo difícil , pero una vez instalado dentro de este su segundo álbum, Prom, la experiencia puede resultar más que reconfortable.
“Travis Johnson and Emily Ambruso of Brooklyn’s Grooms met on long-passé social networking site Friendster, according to a label bio. Please, don’t hold that against them. The band’s genesis may be purely millennial, but its music is firmly situated in the 1990s. Grooms’ 2009 debut, Rejoicer, slightly recalls the shambling rawness of early Modest Mouse; for the follow-up, Prom, Grooms dive headlong into the sweeping erotic confusion that permeated the dreamier sphere of 90s alt-rock. They aren’t the only band making such a maneuver this year (see: Being Pure at Heart, the Pains of), but Grooms’ aims give off a whiff of vague danger, a static unease occasionally broken by detuned guitars and skins-smashing breakdowns.
Travis Johnson’s swinging, strung-out pipes dominate here, though bassist Emily Ambruso somewhat ill-advisedly takes the mic on the short breakup blast “Sharing”, which sounds quite a bit like fellow New York shoegaze fetishists Asobi Seksu. Like that band, Grooms have little relation to the Brooklyn scene’s recent shift away from hazy, distanced rock toward synths and new age tropes. Although Prom does occasionally dip into the well of perpetually vogue, vague nostalgia (“17 is the whole world/ In my room/ The Smiths, and girls”), the album is especially close-focus when compared to a few of the band’s regional peers. When Grooms hit the sticky, slack-jawed realities of album highlights “Expression of” and “Skating With Girl”, they rank among the few guitar-indie bands so unafraid to match intimacy with clarity.
Unlike another of those bands, Deerhunter, Grooms are still a ways away from managing to carve out an identity through tons of obsessive record-collection re-creation. That’s especially true on “Into the Arms”, where Johnson barks in a way that’s almost distractingly like Les Savy Fav‘s Tim Harrington. The rest of the band doesn’t have the muscle to match up with that sort of brawn (really, who does besides LSF?); despite Grooms’ excellent ability to resemble many other bands without necessarily ripping them off, the track is a reminder that, well, not everything is a perfect fit” (pitchfork.com)