Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair


Western Vinyl, 2015

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


This is a new phase Grooms record.

Founding member Travis Johnson is the only original Groom left, and whether by personal design or by thoughts from the newest band members, the sound is a bit of a break from the band’s previous output. Comb the Feelings is a floating, semi-dissonant, echo-laden album that instantly blends the Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth’s guitars, a bit of mid-career Radiohead and the usual wispy, self-important sounds associated with modern indie rock.

It’s not easy to pull off a song like the title track, but the band does it with aplomb, heaping an old-school alt-rock underground guitar lick with skittering drums and ethereal, disconcerting attitude. Had more of the disc been structured like this, we may have had a modern classic, but much of the music tilts toward the ambient soul-free electronic end of things, to the point where many of the songs tend to drift off into pointless noodling.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The songs rarely follow a traditional format, which is fine, but they are also difficult to tell apart after a while. “Savage Seminar” is a tad more upbeat and clear than most, a placid surface belying churning movement underneath, while “Like a Dream” rumbles along restlessly, a solid album closer. Drummer Steve Levine deserves much credit here for turning these sonic sculptures into something resembling songs and for injecting energy and edgy, impatient percussion into the proceedings.

Flaming Lips fans will probably dig this, especially “Cross Off,” which approaches grandeur in sound, while the front half of “Doctor M” is the most exciting portion of the disc, toning down the keyboards and revealing an actual Euro-rock song underneath, a fidgety bass pushed forward in the mix to counteract the wall of noise in the back.

The rule with layers of noise and songs that don’t travel from A to B is that there must still be strong melodies that carry you on the sonic journey…and that there should be some differences between songs. Shutting down “Doctor M” to noodle around with wonky keyboard noises for four minutes is a pain in the ass to sit through, and by “Foster Sister” you’ll wonder where most of your time went. The disc is ambitious, to be sure, and certain parts of it are appealing to a certain demographic (most likely, bearded hipsters with long hair who lurk around coffee shops and take themselves seriously), but by and large, this new phase of Grooms isn’t terribly appealing outside of the three or four songs mentioned above.

Rating: C-

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