764-Hero – Weekends of Sound

5 out of 5

Label: Up

Producer: Phil Ek

With the addition of James Bertram on bass for ‘Get Here and Stay,’ 764-Hero used their new compositional options to find a blend between their slow-core debut album and the punkish EP, resulting in a very Seattle, very Up Records disc of nigh-poppy tracks with wonderfully sad overtones.  But it was off.  For every rousing track, moments of ‘Get Here’ seemed to crawl, and with the emotion that leaked from lead Atkins on the debut rounded off a bit.  Instead of dressing things up more for their next album (which would happen on their final disc, ‘Nobody Knows This is Everywhere’) the group actually seemed to reach back for ‘Weekends,’ paring most of the songs down to a fairly slow beat, keeping the keyboard touches minimal (at least to my casually listenin’ ear) and lettings songs crawl out to full length… one track even breaking nine minutes.  I bought ‘Weekends’ when I was just taking my first dive into indie land; even then it was a far cry from the more accessible oddity of Modest Mouse (to whom they’re repeatedly compared) and from the throwback riffage of Built to Spill (to whom they’re also repeatedly compared).  The first moment of the album – a striking note, Polly Johnson’s steadfast drumming and Bertram’s meaty bass breaking right in to ‘Terrified of Flight’s driving rhythm – is cold and shocking when you’re not expecting it, and perhaps that’s what first got me to tune in.  And nowadays when I listen to the disc, tempered by more years of listening to good and bad crap and shit from, I like to think, a nice wide sampling of the spectrum of what we kids call ‘music’, that first note still grabs me; not out of nostalgia, which is how I often get suckered into my Modest Mouse discs, but because ‘Weekends’ is still a unique sound to me.  It’s definitely 764-Hero – Atkins has a certain way of putting a song together that can be traced through all of his groups – however, something about the album is so insular that it forever stands on its own.  It’s one of those great discs that doesn’t care about its listener, and thankfully ends up being stronger for it.  Two of the tracks even commit what’s normally a sin to me – ‘Leslie’ and ‘Left Hanging’ (our nine minute track) use completely reverbed and distorted vocals that are blended, by Ek, into the song’s layers instead of being pushed explicitly to the front or back.  This technique has its place, of course, but I find it’s generally used as an in-between track.  Having it featured right in the middle of the disc would normally be a momentum killer.  Because ‘Weekends’ sets it’s sights on this steady pace from the get-go, though (Johnson’s drumming rarely lets up), it fits.  It works.  And letting things grow so organically is what makes the following sweet and sad and relatively quiet ‘You Were the Long Way Home’ stunningly effective, as well as the noisy and upbeat closer ‘Blue Light.’  The disc is an experience that pays off.

Ek deserves a lot of credit for making the sound so rich, but without Atkins ponderous lyrics, these tunes would obviously fall flat upon repeated listens.

And that cover.  One of the most disgusting covers I’ve seen, totally meant in a complimentary way.  I loved how discordant the colors were; how bland but detailed that cover image is.  Locked doors, broken glass.  Something about it is fitting: ‘Weekends of Sound’ could be that overheard tune, drifting from the cracks and holes in a seemingly abandoned building, that sounds oddly like a mash of noise but ends up getting indelibly stuck in your brain.

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