Carnivores – “Second Impulse”

“Carnivores are able to keep in check the psychedelic tendency to hide behind layers of panning stereo effects…. An album with so many elements shouldn’t work this well, but it does.” – Lee Fowler

Lee Fowler

out of 10

Second Impulse
October 8th, 2013
Army of Bad Luck Records

Psychedelia can’t leave a sound alone. Not content to let a sparkling melody float merrily atop the mix, it has to bury it with reverb, fuzz, bizarre bleeps and whirrs, and indistinguishable vocals. It delays the snare and hides underwater sounds behind every cymbal crash. Atlanta’s Carnivores, however, steps out a bit from the psychedelic murk, adds some crisp but demented surf leads to moody post-punk vocals, and ably crafts a pleasing modern pastiche of musical elements from the past fifty years or so.

Don’t be misled. These Carnivores eat meat, but they’re not scavengers. Instead of eating everything set before them, they have carefully selected, sampled, and consumed a musical diet from decades past, only to assimilate those styles into the band’s genetic code, waiting for the opportune moment to express those traits. They’ve imbibed the Sonics, Sergeant Pepper’s-era Beatles, Love Tractor, even Thee Oh Sees.  They’ve taken significant helpings from the drug-addled 60s, the punk of the late 70s, the giant snare 80s.  They’ve sat in the same restaurant while their contemporaries devour the Ramones and make endless trips to the Brian Wilson dessert bar. Indeed, Second Impulse could have been a musical history lesson if they hadn’t seamlessly assimilated elements from the musical past into their own idiosyncratic formula of non-derivative rock. Far too many bands are unable to escape the mere trappings of genre. The Carnivores, on their third full-length, have surpassed their peers who have simply aped the postures and elements of past music.

The first track, “Loom,” is a representative start, its repetitive introductory drums overlaid with hyper-chorused guitar, synth-organ, and a rubbery bass line. The second track begins with a more moody vibe, before the surf jangle and not-as-reverbed-as-you’d-expect vocals join them for several sunny melodies before descending into a psychedelic mush three and a half minutes in. A Pylon-esque bounce propels the third track, “Spell,” through the jangle-pop of neighboring Athens and drops them into the Fall-like Mark E. Smith drawl of “Dressed for the Rain.” The wonders do not cease, however. There’s the carnival synth organ and ghost chorus guitar of “Gates of Paradise.” There’s even the “Once in a Lifetime” Talking Heads-ish talk-singing of “Singing in your Automobile.” Three different vocalists share duties throughout, all taking more of a central role than most in this genre. “Born Again” is a straight ahead surf pop tune, complete with ooo sha la las and an irresistibly infectious melody.

In the end, Carnivores are able to keep in check the psychedelic tendency to hide behind layers of panning stereo effects. The strength of the songs themselves arranges those effects into their proper place. An album with so many elements shouldn’t work this well, but it does. Psychedelia doesn’t win, but the Carnivores (and the listeners) do indeed.

– November 7th, 2013 – Lee Fowler

Carnivores – “Loom”

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