Wow & Flutter Equilibrio!
[REJUVENATED POST-PUNK] Local post-rock trio Wow & Flutter is hardly a new band. In fact, this isn't even its first incarnation; starting back in the mid-'90s as a five-piece led by singer-guitarist Cord Amato and drummer Jack Houston, Wow & Flutter has been mining the same squalling guitar feedback and krautrock rhythms for a good while now. It's also my opinion that these guys have been vastly underrated, a fate that I hope will change with Equilibrio!, the band's latest—and greatest—LP.
Equilibrio! (Italian for "balance") is the band's first release for Seattle upstart Mount Fuji Records, and it's a darker, more eclectic record than the group's last full-length, 2008's punk-infused Golden Touch. There are a few moments here that rival just about any indie-rock record released this year: "Scars" sounds like a lost single from Sonic Youth's late period (it would fit perfectly at the beginning of Rather Ripped), and "Union Pacific" skirts by with clattering rhythms and some nifty fretwork. "Ivan the Terrible" stomps with an evil sneer that's new for the band, and closer "The Day Before the World Explodes" uses all of its six minutes to build to an epic, fuzzed-out and hopeful finale.
And it's that sound—a certain youthful exuberance—that radiates through the record. Wow & Flutter seems rejuvenated, like the line from "Scars" ("Mixtapes of my youth I can't throw away/ I'm still jumping someone else's train") is the most important thing in the world. And maybe it is. Let's just be happy that we get to hear that joy run for 38 exuberant minutes. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Super XX Man Volume XIII: White Bed
[A QUIET STORM] Some folks are just never going to be Super XX Man fans. They find frontman Scott Garred's songs to be twee and oversensitive—they think of Garred himself like a well-meaning, but ultimately boring, lit professor (he's a music therapist, thank you). And for those people, Volume XIII: White Bed's sentimental (and yes, slightly cheesy) opening track, "When We Were Young," is one of the silly love songs Paul McCartney sang about.
But Super XX Man fans—and I count myself among them—find magic in the songs' understated twists and turns. For us, the music is a sort of a Zen pop deconstruction that scales the form to its most satisfyingly simplistic elements. It's not unusual, then, for Garred to repeat a line a dozen times, a practice that separates those hypnotized by his music from those annoyed by it.
For the former crowd, some of White Bed's tracks will rank among Garred's best. The lullabic "About You/ About Me" is a prayer wrapped in ghostly slide guitar, brushed drums and Garred's hushed, slightly nasal vocals. "Natural Death"—simultaneously the most upbeat and terrifying tune on an album loaded with meditations on mortality—is pretty universal in both theme ("When I go, I should have a natural death/ I don't wanna have a wreck or break my neck") and pure pop appeal.
The disc is also more varied than a standard Super XX Man release. There's enough rocking here (see "Peter and Paul" and the horn-fueled "Desolation Yellow") to draw in less-patient listeners, and Garred's band has more fun with polyrhythms ("Upsetter") and non-traditional song structure ("White Bed") here than usual. That's good news for everyone: a bit of new growth for dedicated old fans; a bit of new excitement for those who are normally bored by Super XX Man. CASEY JARMAN.