By JENNIFER KELLY
Salad Boys’ second full length is noisier and more emphatic than 2015’s Metalmania, drawing sharper outline around its fuzz-crusted pop songs, kicking them harder and finding a vein of anarchic joy in its classic Flying Nun sound.
During the interim, there’s been a change in line-up for the Christchurch-based outfit –Joe Sampson, the singer and guitar player, is now flanked by Ben Dodd on bass and Ben Woods on drums. That shift in players may account for the programmed drums in lead-off cut, “Blown Up,” whose tense, monotone chants, give way to clanging guitar. The cut tugs hard at the leash all the way through its blatting, bleating, robot-krautish introduction, its whispered verse barely rising above the hard beat, and then a minute in, guitars crash in head-first, heedless and hedonistic, full of joy and distortion.
“Psych Slasher” is even better, with real drums and slashing, slanting guitar right from the beginning, and fist-in-the-air defiance in the shouty, hooky chorus. A viscous, rubber-oozing bass line pushes the song onward, the drummer slaps the beat hard on the twos and fours, and the whole thing is an adrenaline coursing racket, but not without its melancholy. Salad Boys have a way of infusing even the hard-charging songs with melancholy; the minor key twists in their bright melodies are like shadows in sunlight.
As before, Salad Boys intersperse rockers with blissful acoustic jangles, where whispery wistfulness threads through the tunefulness. “Dogged Out” is maybe the best of these rain-through-windows songs, embellished with ribbons of string sound for a fuller sound. Yet the best cuts have a bit more bite to them – the early R.E.M.-ish anthem “Exhaltation,” the punk-ish, friction-y “Scenic Route to Nowhere.”
This Is Glue is several orders of magnitude better than the already quite enjoyable Metalmania. Without changing the formula much, Sampson has somehow increased the impact of his ramshackle, ear-wormy songs and made them matter more. Where the earlier album made you nod in recognition and, later, reach for your old 1980s Flying Nun LPs, this one seems entirely sufficient on its own terms. Here comes the new century of 21st century NZ lo-fi; on the strength of This Is Glue it’ll be just as good as the last one.
Download: “Psych Slasher” “Exhaltation”