Made up originally of Alabama natives Louis Stefano on drums, bassist Cedric Lemoyne and brothers Cinjun and Shelby Tate handling vocals and guitars, Remy Zero were first exposed to the spotlight when Radiohead invited them to open for their US tour for The Bends. The band’s self-titled first album was released to little fanfare, while their subsequent, Villa Elaine, earned them the fleeting next-best-thing title when it was released in 1998.
The Golden Hum brought with it a new line-up (swapping in Gregory Slay on drums and guitarist Jeffrey Cain) as well as a label swap to Elektra after being dropped by Geffen. The songs themselves, though, stay true to the band’s penchant for ambitious, soaring soundscapes, Cinjun Tate’s warm vocals and alternately delicate and crunching instrumentation.
The album opens with its title track, which builds upon its deep, pulsating bass intro with layers of clean guitars, crescendoing drums and, finally, cataclysmic section of electric guitar which then fades right into the next song. “Glorious #1” is immediately catchy, with lines like “I’m back down to the glorious number one / My prints all over the smoking gun / Back down to the glorious number one / all lines to the living are now undone” delivered in a seductive growl and backed by crunching guitars and a distorted bass line to enhance the feel of tension in the lyrics.
The next few tracks are a string of heavy hitters: “Out/In” is a tightly-crafted, three-minute slice of arena pop-rock reminiscent of U2 while the slow-burning “Bitter” combines weaving guitar lines and low, grumbling drums with a moody chorus to provide the perfect antidote to the unflagging optimism of “Out/In.”
Featured as the title track for television’s superhero hit Smallville, “Save Me” became a breakout hit, and for good reason; with lush, sweeping instrumentation and Tate’s clear, powerful vocals, the song is anthemic and undeniably catchy, one of the album’s sure highlights.
Unfortunately, things begin to flag around the halfway mark: “Belong” and “Smile” are both decent, trading in crunching guitars for more downbeat, quiet arpeggios, but there’s little divergence from formula and the songs ultimately fall flat as the album comes to a close.
Overall, though, The Golden Hum is an endearing listen, its skillfully layered arrangements and the band’s sensibility for crafting neat, poignant pop songs coming together to create a solid, if not earth-shattering, effort.
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