Smokescreen Slightly Confusing To A Stranger (Closetspace Records)
Full Disclosure: Luke Holwerda, Smokescreen’s guitarist, is a New Times freelancer who shoots concert photos for this blog.
By Martin Cizmar
For a Phoenix band, Smokescreen sound pretty British. Not, like, Blur British, but British enough. It’s not the vocals – singer Gus Holwerda doesn’t sound like Liam Gallagher or anything – but the band’s musical vocabulary definitely owes a debt to the lads across the pond.
Their latest album, Slightly Confusing to A Stranger opens with a scratchy little guitar and bumping bass line that comes straight out of The Stone Roses playbook. The refrain to “Rise” recalls early Pablo Honey-era Radiohead, especially Holwerda’s half-burbled, half-cooed invitation to “come on and hate me.” That’s a compliment but not a huge one – early Radiohead is definitely overrated because of their later work.
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The album’s standout track, “Commercial 1.0” is also quite British, recalling Coldplay as it begins with a rising piano that feeds in to a simple rhythm topped with restrained vocals that start soaring right along with the backing music right at the refrain. Then, of course, it’s back to slow again until the inevitable next crescendo. The song feels immediately familiar in a way that’s neither indicative of an instant classic or a total rip-off – more like a song you’ve heard a few times at the mall. It’s a good sound, and one heard too infrequently on the album, as most of the rest of the tracks follow fairly close to the formula on the opener.
Slightly Confusing is a good record, though. Recorded and mixed perfectly, it projects a professionalism missing from a lot of other Phoenix bands. If they can come up with a “Commercial 2.0,” this band could be on to something.
If you’re a musician from the Phoenix metro area and would like to submit a CD for review, please send it in an envelope marked “YAFI” to:
Martin Cizmar You Asked For It c/o Phoenix New Times 1201 E. Jefferson Street Phoenix, AZ 85032