(Normaltown) New Madrid’s follow-up to 2014’s Sunswimmer finds the Athens rock quartet expanding its palette, incorporating Television-esque guitar heroics and various psychedelic flourishes into its once-rootsy sound. The group even flirts with heady jam-band vibes; see the funky “Rex” or the appropriately named “Charlie’s Party” for two examples.
At times the references are a bit on the nose: “Untitled III,” with its buttery opening riff and dramatic tempo change, could be a Marquee Moon B-side. The shuffling, repetitive “Darker Parts” cops from Radiohead’s King of Limbs playbook. “36 Grams of Sugar” has an undeniable Meat Puppets feel.
Elsewhere, those influences coalesce into something more distinctive. On “Don’t Hold Me Now,” singer Phil McGill’s indiscernible vocal delivery becomes an asset, his careening melodies playing off the band’s airtight rhythm. “Knots” augments My Bloody Valentine tremolo with summery sweetness. “Magnetic Halo” is Sonic Youth sans emotional distance. (The album’s last track is called “Washing Machine.” Coincidence?)
There are a ton of ideas crammed into the 15-track LP; it can feel like an overwhelming listen, especially given its 70-minute runtime. Increasingly, though, New Madrid’s greatest asset is its willingness to take chances. Dig a tune like “Guay Lo”—the taut, 11-minute instrumental jam that follows the album’s loosest, catchiest single—and tell me you don’t at least admire these fellas’ chutzpah.
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