With its debut album, Seattle's Hello From Waveland has brewed up a warm and inviting batch of vintage late '80s guitar rock tunes that effectively summon the fuzzy ghosts of Uncle Tupelo and Telepathic Surgery-era Flaming Lips without sounding either derivative or dated. While most of the textures on this 11-song collection are deeply informed by post-R.E.M. guitar figures and exhibit ever-so-subtle country edges, under it all is a genuine appreciation for traditional American rock that runs deep.
Hello From Waveland consists of Michael Jaworski (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Doran Bastin (bass), Mat Matthews (drums) and John Randolph (lead guitar, keyboards). Home recorded and nicely medium-fi, Strangeways (Roam) occupies a spot on the map where '60s AM radio pop slams into '70s rock with lurking punk urgency. The opener, "Speaking4clapping" is a great intro to the band's basic M.O.: that is, smartly written, intensely personal accounts fleshed out with alternately chiming and growling six strings, a steady bottom, keyboard flourishes and likeable, harmonizing vocals. "Overnight Sensation" is a somber examination of a relationship in possible death throws that operates as an allegory addressing the frustration and desperation of a band on the slow, grinding road toward a future in the music industry that is sketchy at best. Backed by gently picked guitar chords, plinking piano and mournful strings, songwriter Jaworski spills it in the very first couplet: "We all know good things come to those who wait / I've waited long enough to know it's getting late." The album is not without problems, however. The goofy "Deepest Lake," for instance, might work in an ironic context. The trouble is, I think these guys are playing it straight.
But for the most part, all systems are go for an engaging listen. Such unimposing statements as this have the potential to alter the indie rock landscape in ways that are only apparent in hindsight. Strangeways is just weird enough, just enough out of sync with the prevailing trends to be either completely ignored (which would be a shame) or to be appreciated as a casual call to arms, rallying the despondent jangle rock renegades out there for another go at mainstream sensibilities.
Hello From Waveland plays at Mootsy's on Saturday night.