Once upon a time, there was a style - no, a movement - known as "college rock.” College rock was an extension of post-punk and new wave, as a new generation grappled with the stripped down ethos of punk, applying it to a wide range of musical influences from '60s pop and psychedelic rock to folk and singer/songwriter fare.
This was an exciting time, as college rock brought the aggression and inventiveness of punk but grafted on the chops and musicality of classic rock. If anybody has spent any amount of time in circle pits or listened to The Exploited can tell you, it doesn't take long to grow tired of that "three chords and the truth" mentality. Even the most ardent punk defenders will admit that bands like The Sex Pistols and The New York Dolls were just playing a sped up, glue huffing version of Chuck Berry riffs and Tommy James and the Shondells rockabilly; a far cry from the revolution they were crying blood for. Rotting Apples is a telecommuting duo from Bakersfield, California and Perth, Australia, made up of Billy Bedard, responsible for the music and production, and Trisha Farnan on vocals. Their music is a blend of jangling '60s rock guitars, framed in psychedelic ambiance, over which Farnan sings in a light, airy voice, like a female counterpoint to R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe.
R.E.M. is the most pertinent touchstone here, as Rotting Apples share the Georgians taste for pop sensibilities rendered in arty, angular minimalism, being as indebted to Wire and the Young Marble Giants as to Yes and Bruce Springsteen. It's a case of the best of both worlds, as the poppy sensibility pushes Rotting Apples to have tight, cohesive arrangements that may not re-invent the wheel but that's because the wheel sounds bloody hell awesome, like the flanged wah guitar solo on their album The Falling Sound opener "Poppy Seeds.”
The Falling Sound catapults us back in time, to a time where of hyper-literate radio bands that all got lumped under the title "alternative rock.” I'm thinking, particularly, of the Counting Crows and their first record August And Everything After, which gets misremembered due to its hit status at the time of its creation. Here was a band dropping mandolins and acoustic guitars behind songs about novels by Saul Bellow. They call to light a hidden lineage of smart, arty psychedelic indie rock that also includes The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me" with its references to the pedophiliac Lolita. It's a unique amalgamation of non-Western funkiness, blended with the Anglican tendency towards allusion and classicism. Basically, this is a world that includes forest clearings, small town squares, Viennese opera houses and musty libraries, all cohabiting peacefully.
The Falling Sound sounds remarkably organic for something recorded over the distance of 9,307 miles. Bedard would record all the music for Farnan to record vocals over at her leisure. While the Internet threatened to depersonalize and isolate all of us - and it can - it can also be a tool to bring us closer together, towards a better understanding and a clearer depiction of our true selves.
The Falling Sound will appeal to fans of college rock and the early days of alternative and grunge. There is also a New Wave goth sensibility at times as Farnan's vocals can have the confectionary sugar consistency of The Cocteau Twins' Liz Frazer like on "University Night," which also recalls the under-appreciated The Sundays.
For people that like POP and PUNK, heart and smarts. For people who dislike hard, straight lines and people telling them they can't do something. Rotting Apples have a lot to say, and are very good at saying it. Recommended.
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