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Wildhoney - Your Face Sideways | Album Review

by Ryan Allen (@nubroozes)

Before Kevin Shields and the whammy bar made his Fender Jazzmaster sound like a crying seagull trapped in a reverb tank, the guitar accessory most often associated with shoegaze has a much deeper history. In the early days of electric guitar, it was synonymous with the tremolo achieved by the likes of surf-rock pioneers like Dick Dale and the Ventures. It's also responsible for pretty much any "out there" lead guitar part Eddie Van Halen has ever laid to tape.

Why am I telling you this? Well, nowadays, it's seems to be what separates any jangly indie guitar band from being just a "plain old rock band" to what is considered "shoegaze" (or "nu-gaze"...or really whatever classification gets thrown around to describe dreamy rock bands that aren't afraid to get loud, bendy, and wank the shit out of the whammy bar). In 2015, there's certainly no shortage of these types of bands, perhaps brought back from the dead when The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Asobi Seksu ushered the sound back in fashion sometime around 2007. It's only seemed to pick up steam since then, and any kid with enough money to afford a Fender Jazzmaster knock-off and a decent reverb pedal can make his or her very own shoegaze record in the comfort of their own bedroom.

So let's pull no punches here: Wildhoney are one of these bands. They've got all the makings of a classic shoegaze indebted act: dreamy female vocals, and warbly guitar lines that sometimes are soft and pillowy, and at others seem to scrape at your ears with a sound that is as violent as it is beautiful. Luckily, though, where as the trend seems to be moving into more "heavy" territory - with emo-associated contemporaries like Balance and Composure and Superheaven mining a sort of grunge-gaze steez - Wildhoney seem much more interested in exploring the breezy textures of the Sundays, Velocity Girl, and even a more cleaned-up version of Black Tamborine. Opener "Ceiling Fan" even brings to mind some of the brisk jangle-pop of R.E.M. put through a hazier lens. "Laura" lays it on thick with a glistening guitar line and bed of synths that recall Lush, and "FSA II" gives Slowdive's Brian Eno obsession on Souvlaki a run for it's money. The verse of "Hurts to Hear" could sound right at home on a Smiths album, with tasteful acoustic/electric guitars dancing around one another in a Marr-esque fashion.  

You could argue that this EP has it's moments of shoegaze predictability, but throughout the band keeps their sights set directly on pop melody as the focal point instead of merciless whammy-bar worship. Naming your band after a Beach Boys album at least promises some kind of melodic focus, so it's good to know that Wildhoney end up delivering...and then some.