Darker lyrics, new vocal stylings show Abe Vigoda is growing up

Darker lyrics, new vocal stylings show Abe Vigoda is growing up.
Abe Vigoda's latest (no, not the 'Godfather' actor) puts the irony back into music. But come on, the name is Abe Vigoda. Were you expecting differently? Courtesy of PPM Records

Leave it to an underground L.A. band to bring subtle irony back to rock music.

Abe Vigoda's 2008 major full-length debut Skeleton put them on the map as a jumbled but joyful mess that couldn't help but make you feel alive. And now their follow-up EP Reviver seems to have taken this life and twisted it into a darker, murkier mess that has a haunted sort of frailty to it -- something like a skeleton.

After the critical success of Skeleton, and a year of touring with their buddies in No Age, Abe Vigoda seemed primed for a seat at the big kids table of the graduates of Los Angeles' now famed DIY venue The Smell. It even felt like they might have the potential to surpass their No Age buddies due to their slightly greater accessibility and affinity for occasionally throwing in things that loosely resembled choruses. Then Reviver happened, and while it still contains that same element of layered chaos that defines the band, it felt so distant from any of those expectations or their previous work that it seems ridiculous to compare the two.

Abe Vigoda are most often referred to as tropical punk rock, whatever the hell that means. Thankfully, Reviver makes about as good a case as any album in the last few years not made by Animal Collective against bullshit genre classifications.

This isn't to say they're a different band altogether. "Don't Lie" and "House" certainly contain remnants of the frenetic and at times almost entirely independent competing thrashings of Skeleton. But less than ten seconds into Reviver comes the first sign this Abe Vigoda might not have as many palm trees. That sign? Michael Vidal's voice. One of the perks of being such a young band is the rare ability to mature entirely on accident. And Vidal's shift is a prime example of this. Either the man has been vocal training with The National while on a strictly Joy Division diet, or his pipes went through some serious changes in the past year. And these new vocal stylings mixed with a darker writing style ("Lift up his face, screams across the sky, gnashing teeth, you'll know what I mean/ Forced hate, fills up the streets, awake for days, you'll know what I mean") make "Don't Lie" a positively haunting intro that is somehow both the darkest and most accessible track of the EP.

"House" is the closest thing to an old-fashioned Abe Vigoda romp, and a necessary element of the EP to prove that "maturing" and "fun" don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Next, in an album stock full of contradictions and ironies, "Endless Sleeper" plays out to be their most experimental and least interesting track to date all wrapped into one. This less than two-minute noise-pop meets feedback attempt gone awry can't help but stick out as a glaring hole in an otherwise strong five-song EP.

And where "Endless Sleeper" could have been interesting but ended up awful, "Wild Heart" followed the motif of contradiction by seeming potentially awful from the outside and turning out fascinating. The song is a near six-minute long unironic cover of Stevie Nicks 1983 song of same name. Where Nicks' song feels like a playful representation of the tribulations of love and pain and moving on, Vidal's vocals along with the eerily extended arrangement shift this into a downright chilling meditation on love lost that feels far too powerful for any sort of timely moving on. It's a truly beautiful moment on the record, a moment that asks where this band could possibly go next and a moment made even stronger by the fact that this band never could have pulled it off a mere one year ago.

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