Born of the same Los Angeles Smell Club that brought us HEALTH, No Age and The Mae Shi, Abe Vigoda have come a long way since their 2006 debut Sky Route/Star Roof. If that release more or less conformed to the noise-shock no-wave template of the scene that begat them, then each subsequent album appears to have distanced them a little more from their beginnings. 2008’s Skeleton was met with acclaim, and immediately saddled with a clumsy “tropical punk” label: all lush sunshine haze and hypnotic, rhythmic heat. Now with Crush, album number four, the band once again appear to have effected a marked swerve in their style and sound.
The dominant and prevailing impression this time around is of an album rooted in the 1980s. This is the ’80s of grandiose, wind-swept, big sounding music (Sequins, November); of Talk Talk‘s In My Life, audible in the vocal throughout, but in particular on Beverly Slope; of Johnny Marr‘s guitar jangle and the gothic darkness of The Cure. Echoes of all of these reverberate through the album in a remarkably authentic manner: most tracks here would not have sounded out of place on The John Peel Show circa 1984-85.
The tropical warmth of Skeleton has now been replaced by a harder, darker, chillier core. Where words can be made out over the rich (sometimes over-layered) production, references appear to be to “ghosts”, “black holes”, “lives unknown”, all this matching the generally angst-ridden and sometimes flat-out anguished tone of the vocal.
This vocal does take some adjusting to, and initially casts a gloomy pall over the songs. Listen longer and deeper, however, and their craft and beauty emerge – with the occasional twinkle of synths, in Sequins, Throwing Shade and Repeating Angel, for example; or the latter’s romantic central declaration (“you are my consequential girl”). Some of the best tracks, like To Tears, carry out a strange aural version of an “optical illusion”, whereby what sounds like a slow, sombre track is actually on closer analysis fast and possessing a manic synth line. Also wonderful, and improving on each listen, are Dream Of My Love, all surf guitar and 8-bit synths; November, probably the track with the most memorable and distinctive tune; and Repeating Angel.
An album that merits – and rewards – repeated listening, this is further evidence of a band not simply in it for the short haul. Certainly no one-trick ponies, it will be interesting, exciting even, to see where Abe Vigoda take their music next.