Last week, while driving in circles around the Valley on my usual daily grind, I flipped on KROQ to see which song out of their 15-song library was playing. Instead of the expected Offspring or Linkin Park tune, what I heard was something new and yet strangely familiar: Plucky, hushed guitar riffs in a quiet-loud progression, discontented vocals delivered with a snarl in the verses and angst exploding all over the place in the bridge…yes, this sounded like something from 1995. It even had a buzzworthy phrase in the chorus: Jesus stole my girlfriend, repeated a few times for effect. I quickly looked up the song and alas, it is NOT a 1990’s band, instead being an Australian band named Violent Soho. I diligently tracked down the band’s self-titled album which just came out a few weeks ago, and is mostly a re-release of 2008’s We Don’t Belong Here, but re-mastered and with some tracks changed around. It was released on Ecstatic Peace! Records, which is actually headed by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore (a hero of the band, apparently).
The song on the radio, Jesus Stole My Girlfriend, pretty much blew my mind when I first heard it. While the song is arguably the strongest on the album, the whole thing is still a great collection of 1990’s-inspired pissed-off angsty goodness. Vocalist/guitarist Luke Boerdam does a bang-up job channeling, at times, Kurt Cobain, Daniel Johns of Silverchair, even Craig Nicholls of the Vines and Wes Scantlin of Puddle of Mudd (and I mean that strictly due to the voice, not the music: this is not a slanderous comment).
Album opener Here Be Dragons kicks things off with an energetic burst of aggression, again using the quiet/loud dynamic that typified most 1990’s rock with precision.
Jesus Stole My Girlfriend is next, and it’s really a great song. It could easily have come from one of those nameless alternative rock bands that jumped on the “post-grunge” bandwagon in the wake of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and all that Seattle stuff.
The fact that Violent Soho is instead a newer band (having formed in 2004) actually impresses me. While some could write the band off as “1990s clones” or whatever, I admire their willingness to attempt to bring back a genre I miss dearly.
Son of Sam continues the great start to the album, with a burst of guitar riffs and more snarly vocals by Boerdam. It has a good, strong chorus too, with Boerdam yelling “Beautiful girl, you got a hole in your heart, sitting pretty ‘til the world tore apart”. The drums are on display on this track, and Michael Richards smashes the shit out of them accordingly.
My Generation, while not a Who cover, moves along to a bouncy riff and drum beat and another memorable chorus. The band really knows how to do that right.
Muscle Junkie brings the “post-grunge” feeling to the absolute brink of eruption, beginning with subdued vocals matched with a slow bass lead before, of course, exploding into an angry “fuck you, fuck you, I can’t trust you!” chorus, where the guitar returns to offset the lyrics, which alter themselves to “fuck you, fuck you, I hate your face!” before returning to the quiet sound for the bridge. Yes, yes, YES!!
Slippery Tongue is another standout on the record. The song starts out softly, and sounds like it could have been on Silverchair’s debut Frogstomp, especially when the “She’s got a slippery tongue, she won’t take it away, yeah yeah yeah” line creeps in for the chorus. It’s a great exercise in the soft/loud thing that Violent Soho embraces so heavily.
Love is a Heavy Word and Bombs over Broadway are more of the same, as the band sticks to this same formula on most of the tracks. Pissed-off lyrics, energy, aggression, melodic guitar lead-ins, it’s all there. The final track, Narrow Ways, ends the album on a high note, with one of the album’s most memorable verse structures and an overall feel that makes it one of the strongest tracks. The acoustic-sounding guitar passages give it that feeling. The track, along with Jesus, Muscle Junkie and Slippery Tongue are in my opinion the strongest on the album.
Violent Soho may not have the most “original” sound out there, but that’s precisely why I like them. So much of today’s “rock” music is made by boring, trendy bands who stick to the same formula. Violent Soho sound A LOT like their predecessors from the mid 1990’s, with that familiar, intriguing sound that grabbed me when I was 13 and hasn’t let go matched with a sense of homage to the bands of that era.
I have longed for a 1990’s alternative rock revival for years, and I hope this album is a sign of things to come. We’ve already latched back on to cheesy 1980’s synth-pop and 80’s culture, so it’s about damn time we got the “let’s bring back some forgotten era for no conceivable reason” thing right.
I hope more bands follow Violent Soho’s influence and bring it all back. We need it.