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Abe Vigoda - Reviver

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Artist: Abe Vigoda

Album: Reviver

Label: Post Present Medium

Review date: Feb. 16, 2009

Key figures in the music scene surrounding L.A.’s art/performance space The Smell, Abe Vigoda play a post-punk variant that splits the difference between jittery punk and the more aggressively rhythmic strains of indie and underground rock. When at their best, they’re all raging drums clashing with noisy guitar patterns that somehow coalesce into fun, catchy melodies. The result is at once danceable, energetic, and hummable. Underlying it all, however, is a certain D.I.Y. chaos that is infectious and occasionally exhilarating.

On the band’s 2009 EP Reviver, that sense of artistic free-for-all feels largely reined in. That isn’t all together a bad thing, though, as the many subtle stylistic textures that crept up here and there in the past are given more room to breath.

Opener “Don’t Lie” kicks off with a majestic synth moan that gives way to an epic melody propelled by the band’s trademark undulating, propulsive rhythms. When the chorus kicks in, it’s hard not to be swept up in a sense of togetherness and scene unity, despite the song being a fairly substantial move away from AV’s more frantic style.

Gears are switched to something vaguely more familiar with “House,” yet there’s still a clear penchant for moody textures at play. Shoegaze-like atmospherics were never out of Abe Vigoda’s sphere, but they are given more focus here. And while the approach doesn’t exactly pack an overwhelming punch, it does recall the kind of accessible artiness that made TV on the Radio a critical favorite and a surprise mainstream success.

While Abe Vigoda hasn’t completely abandoned its more endearing punk tendencies, this EP is far from the sound of a scrappy, lo-fi art band. Call it maturation; call it creative restlessness. This sonic switcheroo is in full force on the Fleetwood Mac cover “Wildheart,” which posits singer Michael Vidal as a dead ringer for Stephen Merritt. And though obviously not a Magnetic Fields song, the band’s performance of it recalls the Fields’ august east coast melancholy far more than Fleetwood Mac’s smog-choked pop perfectionism. It renders Abe Vigoda’s “tropical punk” tag, which was misplaced from the get-go, flatly inappropriate.

In the end, Reviver comes off as one of those “key transitional releases,” alerting listeners that a band is expanding its horizons and heading in new directions, though the final destination may not yet be agreed upon. The album has a tight, professional tone that allows certain sonic Hallmarks - those distinctive plinking guitar lines for example - to truly sparkle while buffing out some of the rougher edges. While a move like this does take away from some of the band’s scrappy energy, it also points at myriad possibilities for the future. As a release, though, Reviver might make for interesting enough listening in the immediate, but it‘s also a prime candidate for the cut out bin of memory once the band finally arrives at its aforementioned new destination.

By Nate Knaebel

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