When the first track of Abby Gogo’s album filters in through your headphones, you’ll fiddle with the connection and wonder if there is something wrong with the sound.
The first notes of “Louder than Dreams” pan to the right earphone before exploding into the left — and just like that, you’re off into an entrancing, sometimes chaotic flurry of noise.
The album has almost everything you could want from a band AOL Spinner describes as “psych-garage rockers,” from virtuously messy drum fills to a heavy fixation on guitar feedback.
The album consists of only eight tracks, which gives the band a minimal amount of time to create a catchy debut album. At times the music skews a psychedelic and shoegazer with a touch of garage rock, and all the expected elements are there — the ephemeral, echoing voice and the mix of instruments creating a loud sound clothed in a smooth, calm mood.
But all labels aside, the music creates its own imaginary realm in which the flighty voices of Bon and Jon Allinson suggest that pretty much anything goes.
“Louder than Dreams” gives listeners just enough to give them a sense of what kind of musical world they’re about to dip their feet into. The drums bounce around and occasionally create complex and sped-up fills that push the song into various tempos.
The guitar chords remain mostly the same, guiding the listener gently through the rest of the track. And when it comes to Bon Allinson’s singing, he doesn’t try too hard — he just lets the sounds roll out and presents unadulterated lyrics.
You must have a trained ear to cut through the frenzy of the feedback. The grating sound of a guitar crying at its highest notes can prove to be a little overwhelming to listeners not accustomed to it. But anyone with a penchant for the fuzzy sounds can feed happily on them throughout the album.
“Torpedo” gives you a dose of haunting sounds blended with the uncanny wails emanating from the guitar. Dual vocalists and guitarists Bon and Jon Allinson refuse to make it an easy listen as they launch into as escapade of melancholic frenzy.
The song starts off with a harmony that sounds timid and disjointed. The pace of the song remains mostly subdued and at times turns a little sleepy, the energy waning in Allinson’s voice, which recedes into a calm, almost morose tone.
The initial suspense created by a repetitive guitar becomes monotonous, finally peaking in a sudden onslaught of screeching and whining feedback that takes what feels like a few minutes at the end of the song.
A crying guitar here and there adds the right spice but the continuous and seemingly never-ending note makes it almost unbearable to listen to. For those not accustomed to such subdued sounds, the repetitive, screeching chords make it difficult not to move on to the next track.
But the boys aren’t ready to let you go just yet.
“Guitar #0” throws in a bit of synthesized keyboard and tries to reel you back in. Unfortunately, the drumming in this track remains basic, but it surprisingly keeps a constant, swaying rhythm that forces you to let loose a little and enjoy the quirky beat. If you’re looking for something conventional and Top 40, you’re listening to the wrong album. But if you want layers that you can appreciate without necessarily understanding, this is the album for you.
After tracks that are similar in style, the listener starts searching for something else that will break up the monotony. With eight tracks, the guys can surely create a neat little package, but they have to keep their audience engaged too.
“Feelin’ Slow” offers a surprisingly different mood. The sounds get more pop and Allinson’s voice becomes more accessible and less fleeting. His slow vocals fits in more with the instruments than in previous tracks.
“Come On” is a love song but also the detailing of life with all its complexities. The lyrics gets surprisingly simple and communicate everyday actions. In this track, the guys step down a little from their shoegazer sheen; where before the lyrics seemed more like chants that were far from understandable, here the lyrics are crisp.
Bon playfully sings, Hooray, hooray / the bills are paid / I think I’ll go out and play, but turns the childlike mindset a touch darker with the lyrics, cut through like a razor blade / the damage has just begun.
This clever juxtaposition makes the track the biggest standout. Although the mysteriously indiscernible nature of the Allinsons’ voices create a dream atmosphere in the previous tracks, the power of the language comes through here without the aid of an echo effect. The band’s attitude gets a little easier to understand with these clearer lyrics but remains enigmatically thrilling as you take a trip into the mind of the songwriters, where things seem far from simple.
The album could almost be described as cookie-cutter, but the intent is sincere and the potential is definitely there. Creating an absolutely perfect debut album is rare and the opportunity to grow through further albums presents the band with an opportunity to show what they’ve got.
The tracks show a mixed set of skills and Abby Gogo needs merely to clean up its act a bit. It takes a little bit of musical courage and letting go of conventional standards to really understand the album, but what’s music if it doesn’t make you step outside of your boundaries?