Laurel Canyon bear very little resemblance to the music spawned from the area they take their name. Don’t be fooled, there are no four part harmonies or laconic strums of acoustic guitar to be found here. Their self-titled debut is pure east coast rock and roll.
The group, hailing from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania released their first single less than two years ago and since then the wheels have barely stopped turning. They sound like a band in a hurry, but tempered with the laissez faire attitude of youth.
Opener ‘Drop Out’ is an apt summary of what is in store across the rest of the record. A thumping rhythm section competing for space with thrashed guitars, it holds the quintessential elements of Nicholas Gillespie’s and Serg Cereja’s songwriting. The urgency of the track is reigned in by the barely bothered drawl of backing vocals leaving you questioning whether the song’s refrain of “I can’t complain” is an expression of contentment or oppression.
This sense of dichotomy runs rampant through the record. Fury battles fatigue in a rather impressive synopsis of what it is like to be young, angry, downtrodden and sick of seemingly everything…all at the same time.
Laurel Canyon’s sound is not necessarily hard to pin down, but the fact that they would sound equally at home in 70s CBGBs as they would hustling the same stages as the finest of the 00s garage rock revival is testament to how finely attuned they are to the type of music they make.
‘Tangiers’ sounds like ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ slogging it out with Blur’s ‘Song 2’ in a dark alley, and is a thrillingly bold moment on an album that seldom shies away from putting big guitar sounds front and centre. It will come as little surprise that Steve Albini had a hand in producing a number of these tracks, and there is a guttural, warts and all rawness that is invigoratingly bruising. Laurel Canyon name Iggy Pop as an influence, and while they share his directness, it is Sonic Youth’s experimental side that gives them an added edge. It is this level of intrigue that makes the debut worthy of repeated plays.
Bereft of bells and whistles, but an impressive sonic assault. It may only be rock and roll, but what’s not to like?
Words: Craig Howieson