Monday, January 30, 2012

Xray Eyeballs Catch Splendor Squalor

The Brooklyn band with the curious name has a new lineup and a brand new album. It's enough change that 2012 could very well be the year that Xray Eyeballs finally catches fire.

Gone are Jay High (guitar), Rop Style (synth and theremin), and Allison Press (drums). In are Liz Lohse on guitar and synth (formerly with Heaven and Runaway Suns) and Sarah Baldwin on drums and vocals (formerly with The Girls At Dawn). Lohse and Baldwin join stalwarts Carly Rabalais on bass and vocals, and O.J. San Felipe on guitar and vocals. It's almost an entirely new band.

Xray Eyeballs change up their sound, but not their look. 

If you’ve heard the band’s previous work, you’ll immediately notice that the new version of Xray Eyeballs is a bit less goth in sound. Only the appearance remains relatively unchanged. It all seems by design. Band founder San Felipe knows what he wants but it took awhile for him to find it.

He originally relocated from his native San Francisco to Brooklyn around 2000 and quickly found himself part of a burgeoning music scene playing in a variety of bands, most notably Golden Triangle. If you've never heard of Golden Triangle don't feel bad. They were always light on output, but made up for it with their fiery live performances and wacky stage presence.

It's also where San Felipe met Rabalais, and shared his vision. He wanted to do something different.

“I just wanted to make every song sound like a lullaby," he said. "To me, lullabies are the most memorable kind of songs; everyone remembers them from when they’re babies. They’re not all happy lullabies either. I think people like songs they can relate to, with things like love, loss, dark vices, and sex.” 

San Felipe wrote the songs and then started recruiting band members, with Rabalais being the first. Not Nothing was released in the spring of 2011 on Kanine Records and earned the band props for their dreamy pop hooks and hazy, fuzzy sound that makes one think of Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground. But that's not what makes Splendor Squalor really tick. Here's the lullaby, live.

While you can't catch it all in the clip, Splendor Squalor actually kicks up the songwriting several notches. The synths are more prominent. The showcase is all on the harmonies of San Felipe and Rabalais with a strong garage pop noir sound. And you can hear it better here, from last year.

The 11-track Splendor Squalor offers up a nice bunch of tunes. Not one of them sounds too much like the others, with the band shifting effortlessly from garage rock to an eerie rave up.

Die Little Love is very new wave, punctuated by a piercing guitar and low-key synth. Gotham Low Lifes (sic) features jangly guitars with a pulsating rhythm. X is a punchy tune featuring Rabalais’ throbbing bass, and Four, the first track on the CD, kicks things into gear with a driving beat that makes you want to get up on your feet.

After a few listens to the CD in its entirety, you will hear some traces of the Shangri-Las, X’s John and Exene, and maybe even the Raveonettes (to a lesser degree). Yet, Xray Eyeballs manages to mix it all up and deliver something original. It's inspired and inspiring.

Looking forward, this is a band that manages to do what few can. They bring the intensity of their live shows to their recordings. Want proof? Check out another clip of the band in action at the Mercury Lounge on Vimeo. It includes everyone in the new lineup.

You can stay up to date on the band's comings and goings on Facebook. Twitter too. Right now, the band has a few shows set in February and March, with a Feb. 28 show on their home turf of Brooklyn. In March, they hit Houston and then Chicago.

Spendor Squalor By Xray Eyeballs Raves Up A 7.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

If you are still unsure about the sound, take it for a test run. You can download the song X from their Bandcamp page. In exchange, all you need to do is share your email address.

If you are more certain, then you can find Splendor Squalor by the Xray Eyeballs up on iTunes. The entire album is a steal at $7.99. Listen to X, Four, Pill Riders, and Cold Bones first. Summer Daze too if you like something less expected. The album is also on Amazon, but we haven't seen Kanine Records put it up at Barnes & Noble yet.

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