Raised By Wolves
Cult Hero Records
By: Michael Jones
You can certainly add Voxtrot to that ever-growing list of intriguing Texas bands. This quintet from Austin defies easy categorization. Its press release throws about all sorts of comparisons, and most of them seem fair enough: Gang of Four, The Smiths, early R.E.M., and Belle and Sebastian. It's easy to read these comparisons into the band's sound, but you'd be hard-pressed to accuse it of ripping any of them off directly. And therein lies the beauty of Voxtrot- it knows the difference between being influenced by a band and outright mimicry. Listening to the Voxtrot's new EP becomes less a game of "Name That Influence" and more an experience of hearing a unique band for the first time.
The title track opens the EP with a brilliant sequencing move, as its epic stature perfectly encapsulates Voxtrot's sound with its perky down-stroked guitar jabs, bouncy bass line, dynamic drumming, and Ramesh Srivastava's instantaneously catchy vocals, which have that Morrissey-esque ability to maintain their melodic flow over long, wordy passages. Such versatility enables him to work more of his clever lyrics into the songs without compromising the verse/chorus dynamic.
"The Start of Something" will likely garner immediate comparisons to The Strokes, what with its tersely strummed guitars and muffled vocals but with spirited playfulness substituted for calculated detachment. The song is an anachronism, as it could have been written at any time in the last five decades, seamlessly incorporating into the mix a surf guitar solo and a gorgeous cello breakdown. The vocal line of "Missing Pieces" is so upbeat and catchy you'll find yourself trying to sing along before you've had the chance to memorize any of the lyrics. The propulsive lockstep of the rhythm section and jittery guitars may recall Joy Division's ubiquitous presence in modern rock, but that current common denominator doesn't detract from the song's powerful presence.
Providing a much-needed respite after the hectic pace thus far is "Long Haul," a future mix-tape staple, which could almost guarantee an easy lay. It masterfully showcases the band's arranging skills, solid performances, and Srivastava's beautifully written and sung vocals. "Wrecking Force" closes this EP a shade darker and denser and with just as many hooks, but it shrouds them in an appropriately claustrophobic mix. And, as the final act of the EP, it sets the stage for further ventures into murky waters.