Motley but often appealing, Ex Cops’ first album has a surfeit of musical precedents, including the Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, Neu! and Jan & Dean. If the Brooklyn combo hasn’t quite assimilated these influences into a complete style, that may because the band itself is a work in progress. The oldest material on the 11-song, 30-minute True Hallucinations was recorded when the quintet was just the duo of Brian Harding and Amalie Bruun. before the addition of guitarist Kai Kennedy, bassist Leif Young Huckman and drummer Sam Bair.
The album opens, confusingly, with an electro-funk groove that becomes a trippy, multi-vocal chorale. Most of what follows is sprightly power-pop with psychedelic touches, dreamy asides and occasional dance-club thumps. Gauzy guitar, Bruun’s cooing and lots of reverb combine into a sugary surface, even when the song beneath the glaze is as driving as “Broken Chinese Chairz” or “You Are A Lion, I Am a Lamb.” The basic vibe is 1980s Manchester/New Zealand, although “Spring Break (Birthday Song)” and “Nico Beast” evoke mid-’60s L.A. and Manhattan, respectively.
While the band’s jerky, anxious rhythms recall German “motorik” and arty punk, such cantering, big-melodied janglers as “James” or as “Billy Pressly” are neatly modernized folk-rock. Based on True Hallucinations, it’s impossible to guess if Ex Cops’ next album will be more mainstream or increasingly experimental. But either choice would probably work out fine.
DOWNLOAD: “James,” “Broken Chinese Chairz,” “You Are A Lion, I Am a Lamb” —MARK JENKINS