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Blank Realm - Go Easy

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Artist: Blank Realm

Album: Go Easy

Label: Fire

Review date: May. 22, 2013

Blank Realm has emerged out of the extended drones and free-form scree of the Not Not Fun world into a damaged, pedal-altered garage rock, kin to fellow Australian bands like UV Race and Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Go Easy, originally released on vinyl last year by Siltbreeze, is Blank Realm’s most tuneful, accessible album yet, a loosely strung, cheerily dissonant set of songs. Remnants of the band’s hard-jamming, endlessly improv-ing past poke through -- in the bludgeoning, blast-furnace heat of opener “Acting Strange,” in the untethered instrument play of “The Crackle” (parts one and two) and especially in the vast, krauty expanses of next-to-closer “Pendulum Swing.” But Go Easy is pretty close to a pop album, at least as close as Times New Viking or UV Race ever gets.

Because Blank Realm splits vocals between a boy and a girl, and also perhaps because of a general noisy slackness, they are often compared to Royal Trux. It’s an easy reference, but full of holes. I’m not hearing much, if any, of Hagerty and Herrema’s Stones neo-soul in these tracks, nor is there much of that band’s sexual smolder, maybe because three-quarters of Blank Realm are siblings. But more than that, Go Easy is lackadaisical in a happy, low-key sort of way, not strung out with existential anomie (and, er, heroin). Even the title track, which slathers a who-can-be-bothered monotone of male and female singing over a low-slung blues vamp, sounds more like Matt Valentine and Erika Elder than anything else. It’s unhurried but unworried, too, without the menacing undertow of Royal Trux.

But while there’s not that much darkness to this album, there’s plenty of scratch and friction to balance out the pop. It’s loud and abrasive enough to catch your attention, but under all that, full of positivity, a sing-along swathed in distortion and fuzz. In “Pendulum Swing,” they come pretty close to The Clean’s old balance of joy and noise, in “Clean Up My Mess” to The Stooges’ heavy-booted tunefulness. “Working on Love” piles radiant guitar and surging group-sung choruses onto chugging, huffing bass-and-drums sludge. In one interview, Blank Realm singer Daniel Spencer said that his band used to do extended feedback-fuzzed improvs because none of them played their instruments well enough to do anything else. Now, they slip the blown-out tones and free-form soundscapes into songs, and it sounds pretty damned good.

By Jennifer Kelly

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