On the whim of an affectionate groove riddled with a classic melody that instantly evokes images of young lust and reckless abandon, “I Can’t Say No” penetrates our stereo and welcomes us into The Travoltas, the brand new, full-length studio album by the critically acclaimed band of the same name. Vibrant rhythms carry us out of the pendulous beat in the introductory track and straight into the hardnosed funk guitar of “Snowball” without ever flinching or interrupting the fluidity of the play. “Work of Art” is a bit more abstract in its harmonies, but as is the case with most everything we come in contact with in this album, cerebral craftsmanship takes center stage over glossy showmanship, yielding nothing but bold tonality in the face of easygoing tempos.
“Ghost of Your Love” tosses in a gnarled collection of verses that are transmitted through a Mark Lanegan-style crooning which is as dark and stirring as the guttural narrative of “Mail Ya to Australia” is. The Travoltas’ punk rock attributes reign supreme in this song as well as in the obscurest indie jam “If You Could Be the Star,” and to a lesser degree with the lumbering “Making Out,” but there’s no escaping the effervescent garage rock clamor of the drums and crudely overdriven guitar. This album is full of stylistic contradictions that are fascinating and come out of nowhere, assaulting us with vibrato in songs like “Crying Shame” while also spreading thick harmonies that linger long after “Blame My Baby” or the rigid “Tower of Strength” have come to a stop.
Humorous innuendo and metaphors that toy with surrealism can both be found throughout the whole of The Travoltas, but nowhere are either so intrepidly utilized as they are in “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” one of my favorite songs from the album. Outfitted with a bristling rhythm that eventually comes apart under the gravity of the bulging guitar, this track dexterously pans from one end of the rock spectrum to the next without ever coming off as fragmented or shapeless. It primes us for the sly swing of “Did I Lose You at I Love You?,” arguably the record’s most emotional moment, and contributes to the multidimensional feel of the LP as a complete piece.
We reach the finish line in The Travoltas’ latest melodic affair with the restrained but furious power popper “Hurry Up!” and the ratcheted-up bop of “Thing,” which somehow manages to marry the tone of surf music with the sheer brutality of punk. All in all there’s very little in this record for even the most discriminating of rock aficionados to find flaws in, and personally I think that when you consider the depth of content that we’re privy to in these fourteen songs it becomes even harder to dismiss it as just another alternative album in a year packed with eccentric releases. The Travoltas give us everything they’ve got in this material, and rather than simply stunning us with their sharp skillset they employ every weapon at their disposal within the studio to magnify these songs into larger than life juggernauts. To put it mildly, their efforts weren’t in vain.
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