by David Haynes (@shooshlord)
Once again, my friends, GLOOP invites us to that rarely visited corner of the garage. You know the one. It’s full of broken down lawnmowers and moldy boxes from those times the rainwater has seeped in. On warmer days, it smells like gasoline. GLOOP’s newest masterpiece, Smiling Lines, is one of those boxes full of miscellaneous items that now have a mildewy green tinge but, they’re still beautiful -- aren’t they?
Baltimore’s GLOOP are talented students of noise rock. With references like The Melvins, Jesus Lizard, and Metz, any fan of harsh punk will undoubtedly love this record. Like any good disciples, they’ve taken the best of the genre and added their own grunge and pop references. Underneath the howls, feedback, and cymbal crashes, Smiling Lines is full of slacker grooves and hidden melodies. Once again, GLOOP have returned with another collection of near perfect noise rock songs.
If the opening riff of “Buckets” doesn’t cause you to start bobbing your head, I’m not sure that you’re human. Straight out of the gate, GLOOP let us know that they are back and better than ever. Each repeat of the riff feels like a punch in the gut, as singer/guitarist Dominic Gianninoto shouts and shrieks. There’s a moment where the chaos dissipates for a moment, and there’s some clean(ish) chords to separate the song’s louder, more visceral moments. The album’s single, “Your Heart Claps For Me” carries on in a similar vein, though somehow amping up the adrenaline. Drummer Max Detrich, while serving as the band’s backbone, also manages to join in the chaos and frenzy. The upbeat at the beginning of this song is bound to get your blood pumping.
A few tracks later, “A Dance For Michael” features Blake Douglas’ gnarly, fuzzed-out bass tone. Douglas is the secret weapon on all of these songs, adding so much texture and depth. Midway through “Michael,” the song changes to some sort of skewered swing beat. It’s a testament to this band’s power as a live unit, and it’s a miracle that they were able to recreate that magic in the studio. “Blue Bird,” while still noisy, focuses more on groove. It reminds me of “Dancing Tongues,” the last song from their previous record The Tourist. Not that the songs sound the same but there’s a kinship in the groove and pent-up energy. “Blue Bird” plays with dynamics very well, another testament to GLOOP’s strength as a live band.
On the final three songs, the record takes a turn from GLOOP’s particularly brutal brand of noise rock. Not that these songs aren’t noisy, but some interesting elements are added. For one thing, the bass on these songs takes a way more prominent role. “Awake From The Sky” has some prog influence. Towards the middle of the song, there’s a bass and guitar riff that almost sounds like a warped King Crimson record. This continues into “Turn Inside,” where the phaser and pitch shifting effects on Gianninoto voice sound like they’re Roger Waters approved. Just after the two minute mark, the song begins to spiral out of control. Right before the song should be over, they pull it together for a few final stabs in the last fifteen seconds. It’s the perfect kind of tension – wondering whether the song is just going to collapse or come back together. Likewise, moments of “Hole In The Ground,” the record’s last song, sound almost anthemic. In between bouts of crashing cymbals, Gianninoto screams over a tom heavy beat. Last songs are tricky, and so many records end with an imperfect closer but “Hole In The Ground,” in all its bombastic glory, helps this record to feel complete.
GLOOP is an incredible band. Just like their last record, Smiling Lines is full of outstanding performances, ear-candyish riffs, and loads of boisterous noise-rock. What sets apart a good band from a great band is a their ability to evolve without losing their essence. Smiling Lines is groovier than The Tourist, at times almost danceable (if you were throwing a dance party set in the world of Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner). They haven’t changed that core sound, but they’ve allowed themselves to tweak it slightly. Smiling Lines avoids the sophomore slump precisely because it sounds like the same ol’ GLOOP we love, just chock full of delicious surprises. All hail GLOOP, in all their frenetic glory.