& & by Mike Corrigan & &
On first listen to the opening track of Up High In The Night, the debut album from Los Angeles foursome, Arlo, you get the feeling that this is going to be a bracing, fuzzy and melodic trip. "Forgotten" slaps you warmly with lead vocalist Nate Greely's friendly, slacker boy next door vocals -- vocals that quickly descend into an infuriatingly catchy chorus. When ax man and backing vox Sean Spillane chimes in with his well-placed harmonies, things only get better.
And the sunny, skewed and noisy ear candy just keeps coming. "Nerf Bear Bonanza" is fantastic -- a sweet, jerky ode to nothing much at all (I can't wait for the hot weather so I can blast it out of my car with the windows down). On "Kenji," the band does early Lemonheads better than pretty-boy Dando ever did. It's instant sing-along city, punctuated by crazy curly head drummer Soup's kick-ass stick work. "Shutterbug" mates punk zing and Brian Wilson-styled harmonies to produce a tune that creeps up on the transcendent.
Of course there are a couple of toss aways here ("Elena" comes immediately to mind) and it remains to be seen whether or not Arlo tunage will leave any sort of lasting impression on the cortex. But the easy, quirky charm and casual effectiveness of songs like "Loosen Up" more than make up for the occasional dead air and possible planned obsolescence.
The band's spirit and stubborn adherence to a seemingly lost form of music (that is pre-corruption, unpretentious and fun alt-rock) comes through loud and clear in this lyrical jewel from the refrain of "So Long": "Though some may say redundant, I must decline."
Not redundant, guys. Refreshing.