The slight stumble of druggy melodicism greets us in The Grunions’ “Pink Manta” as if to suggest that the road ahead of us in the new album Shadow Breaker is quite treacherous when it’s in fact as smooth sailing as it gets in indie rock these days. Acerbically eclectic from the get-go, “Pink Manta” advertises bittersweet commiseration only to turn us over to the guiding light of a stoned “Aphelion” which I wouldn’t describe as pure gloom and doom.
Shadow Breaker features a lot of commentaries, but as far down the tunnel it travels, it always maintains a light at the end of the darkness for both us and The Grunions to remain in pursuit of.
“Magnet Head” has a sensuous pulse that immediately made it one of my favorite songs on the album, and when coupled with the haunting harmonies of the dark thruster “Keep It Sh’Breezee,” alternative rock fans would be crazy to dismiss this LP as merely a series of nine lucky hits in an era where tracklists are hardly filler-free. There’s a ton of excess and bloated sonic indulgence in the likes of “FOOTPLATEMAN,” but it doesn’t feel completely pointless when taking in how much contrast our players are drawing off of the liberal instrumentation around them. They are using everything at their disposal to immerse us in their emotional state, which takes a lot out of an artist – though you’d never know that here.
Shadow Breaker’s best song is arguably “Shadow Breaker,” a groove-happy cross between the punchy noise-rock of the early ‘90s and a straight-up psychedelic-pop fantasy that normally wouldn’t boast as much of a blues swing as this performance does. It’s complicated and willfully contradictory, and something about its flouting of the rulebook makes it not only appealing to my rebellious side but a good example of bold harmonies working better outside of the mainstream model than they ever would have within. “Chester’s Thing” is a little retro-simple by comparison, but hey – next to a powerful demonstration of determination and sonic wit like this one, there isn’t very much that wouldn’t have sounded a bit underwhelming.
“Showdown – Tango on Titan” pummels us with its angsty beats, but its segue into the finale “Ophiuchus Spector” is seamless, if not a little jarring to those not anticipating the temperature change. As The Grunions’ new album wraps up and leaves us with the statements it hurls both pleasantly and desperately in songs like “Aphelion” and the aforementioned treasure “Shadow Breaker,” it’s easy to question why this act hasn’t gotten as much love from the indie press as this record most definitely warrants.
Shadow Breaker is brutally honest and diary-like in what it sees its instrumentation confiding in the audience, but it’s also a rather cleansing affair if you need something – or even someone – to share a late evening beside the strings with. It might be missing some of the lusters of the more commercially driven cerebral music out right now, but in some regards, this could be what turns me on about this record more than anything else.