Even among shoegaze connoisseurs, Sacramento trio Electro Group doesn't get as much renown as it should, due mainly to its leisurely recording pace and nonexistent touring schedule. They only release new material every three years, and they haven't done a national tour in six. Fortunately, the quality of their work greatly outweighs the quantity. Their sole Austin appearance still ranks as one of my favorite live shows ever, and their discography is devoid of even one weak track. Good Technology, Electro Group's second album (and follow-up to their 2004 EP Ummo), continues their winning streak.
The band wastes little time getting down to business: after a 15-second intro of ominous droning, they launch into the up-tempo gallop of "Trauma." Every element of the band's sound --- guitarist Tim's frenzied strumming and soft falsetto, Matt's hard yet lopsided drumming and (most importantly) Ian's extremely distorted bass lines --- comes through louder and clearer than ever before. The song only needs two verses, two choruses and two minutes to make its point before ending. Although only three of Good Technology's 11 songs cross the three-minute mark, Electro Group makes every second count, as if they're just as anxious to play these songs as their fans are to hear them.
On Good Technology, the band dodges derivativeness by occasionally incorporating influences not normally affiliated with their sub-genre. Tim's acoustic guitar playing on "The Rule" imitate the mystical boogie of Led Zeppelin, and his dissonant chord voicings on "Bikini States" and "Hong Kong Blues" hark back to vintage Sonic Youth. Not to be outdone, Matt turns in some positively breakbeat-worthy drumming on standout track "August," and goes totally math-rock on us with the tricky meter changes of "Raise Your Head." Nonetheless, this is still a shoegaze album: the vocal harmonies and whooshing guitars on the coda of "The Rule" will take you on a Ride to Nowhere, and the whammy-bar histrionics on "Two Course March" are textbook My Bloody Valentine.
Where the album truly lives up to its title is in the growing confidence that Electro Group has developed in the studio: the musicianship is more confident, the production clearer and more detailed. The band gives the beautiful ballad "Minutes" a psychedelic tint by reversing the keyboards and coating the cymbals in tremolo. "Killer Bees" begins with an interlude of white noise and high-pitched slide guitars that ends up weaving itself in and out of the rest of the song. On "Periphery," Tim's voice is run through bottom-of-the-well reverb that makes his pleading lyrics ("Will you come home?/When will you come home?") even more heartbreaking.
Speaking of hearts, I have a theory that most great shoegaze songs are love songs buried in noise. Good Technology supports my theory by functioning as a sort of concept album about the dissolution of a relationship. Although the lyrics are simple, they cover every emotion from frustration ("I could have made you see/but you made it so hard"), isolation ("You've been living underground/It turned you upside down"), resignation ("You got tired of waiting/for me to move to notice you") to, ultimately, regret ("We have been wrong/To let it slip away"). I wouldn't know this, though, if the lyrics weren't printed in the CD booklet: as usual, Tim's vocals are placed beneath his guitars in the mix. Reading the lyrics, though, has enabled me to connect with Good Technology in a way that I couldn't with their previous work. Now I can let Electro Group into both my ears AND my heart; you'd be wise to do the same!
(Review Written by Sean Padilla)
Labels: Clairecords, Electro Group, reviews e, Sean Padilla reviews rule