Review: Walrus, “Family Hangover”

Walrus - Family Hangover

Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the indie-fuzz band Walrus recently released their new album “Family Hangover.”  Liking the retro nineties indie vibe of their opening track “Later Days,” I received a very harsh wake-up call around the sixty second mark when the melodic instrumental was quickly bludgeoned by an oversensitive crash cymbal and effects that succeeded in grabbing my full attention.  This cymbal would resurface to eventually herald the closure of this song, albeit with mass distortion that I assume forms the genetics of an indie-fuzz number.

Having played this album through several times today, Walrus are not a band that can be categorized as easily as those first 57 seconds led me to believe.  While the modern indie sound forms the nucleus of their music, spin this album more than once and you will detect many influences from decades past.   From late 1950s arrangements and the allure of the 1960s British invasion, to some 1970s prog-rock and a nod to the indie-rock pioneers of the 1990s, Walrus weave all of these influences into their original compositions flawlessly.  The end result here is simply a tour-de-force of great music that binds generations and musical styles together with ease.

So about those past generations.  Go ahead and start with “Tell Me,” and try to ‘tell me’ that the gradual guitar introduction that leads into a full blown “British Invasion” sound is in no way reminiscent to the sounds of The Who or The Byrds.  The 60s beat and thumping bass lines, along with meticulously timed guitar riffs allow this one to play along contently, at least until the natural desire to speed up at the close brings this one back to the present day.  With no pause, “Glam” follows with the very dominant bass solo that immediately hints at a 70s inspired stadium rocker.  Once again, however, Walrus push the boundaries and without missing a beat, switch gears midway from the easy rock number to a very up-tempo prog-rock piece that see them going all out.

Skip back a few tracks now to “Family Hangover,” and the simple guitar progressions and slower melodic lyrics offer hints of the late 1950s romanticism that would birth modern popular music as we know it today.  As is consistent across the album, Walrus are not content to stay in any one musical era for too long, and quickly fuse both some British Invasion inspired riffs with a modern indie rock style to return immediately to the twenty first century.  “Regular Faces” once again leads with a late 60s charged sound, only to progress rapidly and pay a brief homage to the popular indie-rock of the 1990s.  With a very Bernard Butler (Suede) sounding distorted guitar solo, and a vocal delivery more akin to The Smashing Pumpkins, the track ultimately reverts back to its origins whilst retaining the full indie-fuzz sound to the close.

Having taken the listener on a roller-coaster journey across this impressive debut, Walrus wrap up the album with the amazing “What Goes On.”   The aforementioned influences return for one final number that pulls these many musical nuances together.  Commencing with a solo vocal opening segment (that competes with some mild background distortion to fulfill the indie-fuzz duties), the old school rhythm guitar perfectly accompanies the opening verse and offers a throw-back once again to an age of rock-innocence.  Progressing to the second verse, the tempo shifts slightly and blends that late 60s sound into the mix.  And then, right around the three minute mark, we welcome back both the dominant crash cymbal from “Later Days,” and the climatic rock finish that we encountered during “Glam.”  Mating a Pink Floyd style guitar vibe with a more Southern Blues finish (à la Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”), both the track and the album comes to a dramatic close.

“Family Hangover” is a very impressive collection of music.  I have not encountered many alternative-indie bands that have successfully carved their own unique identity whilst clearly indulging listeners in some of the musical origins that influence their style.  Given the nature of this music, I would absolutely love the opportunity to see how these talented musicians from The Maritimes pull this off in a live environment.  Hopefully I don’t have to wait too long to find out.  Highly recommended for anybody who likes something just a little outside of convention.

~ M

Visit Walrus’ website.

Buy “Family Hangover” on Bandcamp.

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