Seattle's Lavacado began life in 2013, but their story goes back much further. All three members - Tal Goettling on guitar and vocals, Steve Ranstrom on bass and backing vocals and Todd Marvin on drums and percussion - have all been playing in bands around the Seattle area since the mid-'80s. Even the studio where their self-titled debut was recorded, Robert Lang Studios in Shoreline Washington, is steeped in grunge history, birthing records from Alice In Chains, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and more. Dave Grohl even recorded a track in the studio right after Lavacado finished tracking bass and drums, for their Sonic Highways sessions.
With Dave Grohl touring America's byways, and bringing everyone back to the glory days of Northwestern rock, the time is right to assess the role that Seattle has played in today's musical DNA. There is a tendency, when discussing records, to view (or listen to) an album in the context of whatever is popular at the moment, even when there is no defining sound, style, or cohesive cultural narrative. Thankfully, I feel like this trend may be losing ground, as we disintegrate further and further into a postmodern meltdown. The time is right for critical observation, as well as being personal and honest.
And while we may not be in the midst of a grunge revival (there was one of those a couple of years ago), it doesn't mean we don't hear the charms of the warm and warbly chorus-like effect of the vocals, bearing such a striking resemblance to Alice In Chain's Lane Stanley or Blind Melon's Shannon Moon, nor does it mean we automatically love it, just because it sounds like what we listened to as teenagers.
Lavacado are a true Seattle rock band, like a specimen trapped in amber from 1994, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses, they just sound different with 20 years perspective. On the plus side, it's thrilling to hear a stripped down, blue collar rock 'n roll, speaking a language of basic, distorted guitar and bass, and clean vocals, along with catchy hooks and melodies. On the down side, did we know, in 1994, how much grunge owed to '80s glammy hair metal? Call it a terminal bias, but when I hear those high, operatic vocals over some supposedly heroic drumbeats, it leaves me colder than Greenland.
Those moments are few and far between with Lavacado, and is certainly no deal breaker. Overall, the authenticity overpowers any stylistic differences we may have. Even the somewhat rough sound quality lends itself to this feeling of a real band, doing what they do: writing songs, playing shows. No more, no less. Towards the end of the one-sheet that came with the record, Lavacado claim "Our mission is to continue to write and rock because rock is in our blood....we do this for the pure passion and thrill."This sentence and a half speaks louder than the most manipulative press campaign. I cry, death to the false press campaign! Forget trends, whatever your friends are listening to, the spark of the moment. Decide for yourself what you like, and when you do, defend it unto the death.
That's what Lavacado are doing, and it's working.
To be honest, I didn't care much for this record at first, mainly due to being tortured with Eddie Vedder's voice on decades of classic rock alternative radio. But that's my job, to listen and dig, to try and get to the truth. The second time through, the truth of the languid, efficient guitars cut through any hypenosis, and I could hear the songwriting, the clean execution, which still has a bit of bite and grit, as any proper grunge record should.
Grunge blends the power of metal with the intensity and weirdness of punk and the intelligence of indie rock (known as "college rock" at the time). This is still a winning combo; a wicked, efficient synthesis.
For anybody that remembers when those first couple of Nirvana and Alice In Chains records were breaking new ground, putting a bit of heart into the napalm death world of heavy metal, for those that liked the distinctiveness and work ethic of bands like The Melvins and Mudhoney, and even fine purveyors of Pacific Northwestern of barebones garage rock like The Sonics and Portland's Dead Moon, get in line to grab a copy.
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