While not exactly a new concept, songwriting as a form of catharsis or therapy has created some incredible rock and pop music over the years. From the angry rhetoric of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ to David Berman’s final project Purple Mountains, a deep dive into the crippling and “treatment-resistant” depression which eventually drove him to suicide last August, the most emotionally raw music is always the most compelling.
The quality that music written by a soul in the middle of an emotional drama has in droves, which is incredibly hard to pin down, is probably authenticity. I’ve heard discussions where people wonder why Kurt Cobain and Nirvana are still popular with young people so long after Cobain’s death. The answer is nearly always authenticity.
The By Gods singer and principal songwriter, George Pauley, was unlucky enough to have been at the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival in 2017 which was the scene of a tragic terror attack, the deadliest mass shooting in American history. 59 people died, including shooter Stephen Paddock, on that horrific day and 869 were injured. Pauley, working as a videographer at the festival, took shelter beneath a table and was lucky enough to survive physically unhurt.
Emotionally, however, Pauley was scarred by guilt, shock, and depression. The band cancelled their upcoming European tour and Pauley wrote around 35 songs in a short space of time as a way of dealing with what he felt in the aftermath of such an event. With the help of producer Alex Newport, who has worked with artists like At The Drive-In and Bloc Party, the band pared down this pile of songs into the 11 which now make up GOLDY.
GOLDY is a strong collection of heartfelt, warm songs with a sinister, Post-punk edge and classic ‘90’s-esque production values. The songs are very concise. None of them break the 4-minute mark and many of them are below 3 minutes. The guitars straddle the line between clean and dirty beautifully, the bass is thick and strong. The drums are clear, powerful and precise. Pauley’s voice is somewhere between some of the cleaner sounding Grunge vocalists with some strong similarities with Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts, for a more contemporary comparison. Some of the songs include piano and cello which makes a nice contrast with the grungy guitars.
GOLDY kicks off with strong album opener “Black Wave”, a screech of feedback, some drum clicks and some heavy riffing in the style of My Bloody Valentine’s classic album opener, “Only Shallow”. Complete with the heavy whammy bar effect Kevin Shields made famous in the early ’90s. Following this is the chugging power-chords, radio-friendly melodies and thumping rhythm section of “Try So Hard”, an upbeat, punky rocker with an air of recent Parquet Courts about it. Blurry is a slow, grungy power-chord chugger in the vein of Dinosaur Jr’s “Sludgefeast” but with guitar tones more reminiscent of British bands like Therapy? or The Wildhearts.
Some of the more balladlike songs like “PTO”, “Song 01”, “Long Way To Go” and elegiac closer “Penhead” seem to edge into territory usually inhabited by bands like Snow Patrol or Athlete, but they still seem to maintain a Post-Punk edge and authenticity in stark contrast to that particular Indie subgenre. This is almost certainly due to Newport’s production. He’s no stranger to hard-edged Post-Punk.
All the way through, The By Gods positively drip with the aforementioned authenticity in a way that their earlier material doesn’t seem to. It’s hard to attribute that to anything other than the horrific events which lead up to the album’s creation.
Written by Tom Ray
GOLDY is out now. Available to buy from the bands Bandcamp page as well as all of the usual digital distributors like Spotify, Apple Music etc.
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