Music News

The Apples in Stereo

The Apples' antsy retroactivity has ping-ponged back and forth so many times over the last nine years, it's become downright dizzying, from '60s pop to '80s jangle and '90s indie. By the time the band released its fourth studio album, 2000's Discovery of a World Inside the Moone, the Apples were oscillating between Elliott Smith and the Jackson 5, with sugary funk, sheets of horns and hand-me-down melodies that earned George Harrison his halo. Their roots, though, were still firmly stuck in Beach Boys sweetness and garage-rock fuzz. Sound familiar? It should. It's the same basic formula that the Ramones and the Jesus and Mary Chain had been following all along. So why did it take the Apples so long to make that connection?

Velocity of Sound's first song, "Please," rips the album open like a greedy kid does a bag of candy. Buried are the paisley arrangements and psychedelic whimsy of past Apples releases; this is brisk, blurry power-pop that buzzes by like the J&M Chain's Barbed Wire Kisses or Automatic. "I Want," with its two-chord whiplash riff, is so Ramones-esque it's ridiculous -- a cartoon of a cartoon of rock 'n' roll. The speed and spunk are intoxicating. Still, a haze of hallucination lingers over songs like "Baroque," whose harmonies unfold with all the floral majesty of the Zombies' "A Rose for Emily," and the wistful "Mystery," where Robert Schneider's bubbly vocals sound like they're being blown through a bong.

The most surprising influence on Velocity of Sound, though, is the Apples themselves. Tracks like "Do You Understand?" are prime examples of the Apples' sound circa 1994 -- an ADD-addled mix of Pavement, the Undertones and early Status Quo that first surfaced on Schneider and crew's first, homemade EP. In rediscovering some of their roots, they've rediscovered themselves. Before Brian Wilson became hip (yet again) and the band's own Elephant 6 label became a renowned indie-pop collective, the Apples were a raw, ragged and edgy bunch of pothead kids with delusions of pop grandeur. Now it seems they've backtracked a bit, grounding their orchestral ambition in a little white noise and punk-fueled abandon. The Apples have always had a sweet tooth for playground rhymes and lullabies. Velocity of Sound's frenzied innocence, though, is just as apt to elicit head-banging as bed-jumping. Bring your pogo stick to the pit.

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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller