Remo Drive — ART SCHOOL

Somewhere in Dinky . . . Too cool for me, but that’s fair

What’s going on in Minnesota? Along with spiritual kins, Bad Bad Hats, this spunky trio contribute to the well-worn tradition of slapping together minimalist instrumentation, entry-level production and energetic performance in effort to establish a garage-rock kingdom. While they don’t possess BBH’s sense of melodicism or their sharper narrative eye, Remo Drive knows how to rock or, rather, they know how to rawk.

They shuffle, they stomp, they strut but most importantly, they know how to transition in between these stages and aren’t afraid of stripping down their instrumentation before coming back to hammer the listener with off-kilter drumbeats and fuzzboxes as a means of heightening the dynamics of their songs. What’s most striking about this group, is its sharp sense of instrumental songcraft and a maturity to make less-is-more plays. Call it the longview aesthetic, the sensibility that allowed Green Day’s Dookie to break through to the masses when its sister-band Jawbreaker and all of their acolytes were unable to.

Remo Drive aspires to Sunny-Day-era emo, yet their shuffling, up-and-down angular attack pays homage to the math-rock trend that’s been sweeping the American mid-west for some years now. This is a wise juxtaposition. On its own, emo music is always in danger of overwhelming the listener, not just with typically nasally vocals but with its self-obsessed, self-pitying lyrical perspective. On the other end of the spectrum, math-rockers (like their cousins, the shoegazers) have a tendency to excise all sense of self in lieu of instrumental dazzle. The vocalist whines, he belly-aches and he navel-gazes but the guitar+bass+drums don’t allow him to overwhelm the track. RD has found a happy balance between the two genres and the effect comes across strongly, somehow conjuring feels of the personal as well as the communal. It’s not hard to imagine that whenever the singer of this band gets dumped, the rest of the band insists on taking him out for pizza and bowling.

My small empire, the vocalist moans. And he’s right, the world he describes in this track (and all the others) does seem small, all images of feeling uncool around other people, an insecurity borne of not having seen much else besides your little town. But when the worldview of this group expands, look out. Again, like Bad Bad Hats, RD’s attention to detail, their unvarnished enthusiasm for documenting life-experience and the maturity of their decision-making separates them from the rest of their brethren. It’s easy to see why gen-z indie rock fans have embraced this group and it’s a matter of time before they grab the ears of those outside this demographic.

RIYL: blog-rock-era Arctic Monkeys, Modern Baseball, YYY’s — Art Star, not-washing-your blanket-for-six-months-freshman year