The tuns sound as sweet as ever, but who knew the sunny Calfornians could do angsty and bleak?
Sarcasm and American indie-rock are longtime bedfellows, lubricated with bilious flecks of bitter, unkind spittle. Well, except in the Hipstamatic viewfinder of Sacramento’s [a]Ganglians[/a], a foursome whose jangling psych-pop was up until now powered purely by sunshine and a none-more-wistful worldview.
No longer, though. “[i]This is a sad, sad song/For all you sad, sad people[/i]”, chirps leader Ryan Grubbs in [b]‘Drop The Act’[/b], before forcing a fistful of sardonic sonic anti-depressants laced with sugar-shelled psychotropics down your ears. “[i]Why don’t you pick up the phone and tell me what you’re going through?[/i]” Don’t call. He doesn’t really want to know about your problems. He’s at it again on [b]‘Sleep’[/b], which recalls the half-there aural shadows cast throughout [a]Foals[/a]’ ‘Total Life Forever’, asking, “[i]Hey man/What d’you know about that?[/i]” in a tone so far removed from his borderline threatening words that they take a few rewinds to grasp.
It’s not all snarky mutterings smuggled in under a blanket of sunshine vibes, though. [b]‘Faster’[/b] offers a calm respite; hillside brook babbles precede a carefree three-minute reimagination of grunge on much cheerier drugs. It evokes the dappled woodland world in which we imagine the band dwelling; if [a]Grizzly Bear[/a] and [a]Fleet Foxes[/a] resemble a well-presented, urbanite study in mild-mannered demi-psychedelia, then [a]Ganglians[/a] look more as though they’ve stumbled in after a three-month campfires-and-insanity expedition.
What they’ve brought down from them there hills, however, is a strikingly odd juxtaposition, a brand of California dreaming diametrically opposed to the outfit with whom they are most often compared: [a]The Beach Boys[/a]. If [b]Brian Wilson[/b]’s ‘Smile’ sounded happy while it was feeling grey, [b]‘Still Living’[/b] is breezy with only an outside chance of showers, but too sulkily self-aware to really plumb the depths of the soul. It’s a summer album, sure, but one that’s more sunny peculiar than sunny ha-ha.