It bears repeating, so here it goes: I’m a fan of this band. From their fledgling Broom to the growing pains of Pershing and Let it Sway, their curiously cool-as-soda-pop rock was always a refreshing sugary drink that could kick you a bit around, in a gentle way. Tape Club showed a rawer edge, as all demo and rarities compilations wont to do and Fly By Wire probably was the moment when you do a double take and the previously sarsaparilla taste reveals there’s a high octane fuel slowly kicking your system.
Welcome to The High Country, welcome to Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin country, where all the previous releases, like the verbose chapters of a novelette, make sense in a way that it was all building up to this. By no means this implies that the previous albums aren’t good, because gosh darnit, they are very good. What this implies is that The High Country is a step above everything they’ve done before.
This is because two factors: a rawer sound, endemic to their live performances, and a very dinamic of loud, raucous songs shuffled with calmer pieces that in some way are more rye and cheese than chalk and cheese.
Take for example ‘Meltdown’, a rollicking track with the sound of cable leads plugging in, accidental strums, all mixed with what pretty much sounds like a caffeinated freak-out. ‘Meltdown’ is the closing track, so surely there’s also a build up for this, right? Well, there is, starting from the hook-heavy ‘Line on you’ and its Weezer flavoured harmony, and cemented in the fierce postpunk of ‘Step Brother City’. “Last time I saw you I played it cool // Now someone’s been nice to you // Is it all you had to do?” preaches ‘Step Brother City’ before circling the sky like spiral-drawing starlings, culminating in a very fuzzed out, overdriven flight. If you still need fierce riffs, ‘Song Will’ is probably a great chaser for this stiff drink. Just what the doctor ordered.
Now, don’t think this is the musical equivalent of a drag race between Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Japandroids. Different cars, different styles of driving. There are poppier moments, like the delectable ‘Full possession of her powers’, which serves as a lifesaver for those needing something sounding like the previous albums. There’s also introspection and ‘Madeline’, a highlight in The High Country, finds the band at its more earnest. A quiet moment, as honest as ‘Stuart gets lost dans le metro’ (from Let it Sway), ‘Madeline’ shines through because of its intimacy amidst an ocean of fuzz and overdrive. Subtle and understated.
The High Country is a very post-punk affair for Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. I don’t expect to see them wearing safety pins piercings or Billy Idol gel hairdos, but there’s a certain punkish attitude to the fast paced sounds of The High Country, and whatever amount of energy lost between execution and recording found in any of their previous albums is now negligible. The activation energy that this album requires to get going is equally negligible, so crank it up.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López