The Laurels

July 13, 2011

Having been around now since 2006 with only one 7” and now an EP under their belt, to say that The Laurels are a band who like to take their time getting it right is somewhat of an understatement. If you’ve ever seen them live, and let’s face it, if you’ve been going out to shows with any degree of regularity over the past 5 years you’d be hard pressed to have missed them, you’ll know what I mean when I say that bottling their sound is no easy task. On Mesozoic though, the band have done just that, managing to shackle the tumultuous pedal driven sonic maelstrom that is their sound to a CD, now available for your listening pleasure through Other Tongues.

Now I hate to resort to spouting genre terms when describing a band, but in this case the term “shoegaze”, whether it be a dirty word or not, is extremely apt. Comparisons to My Bloody Valentine are inevitable (unless you just refer to them rather than actually making them like I just did, postmodern douche nozzle that I am), and while reading that in a review these days is more often a signpost along the road to mediocrity, The Laurels have what few similar bands today are able to manage: conviction. This is a band who would be playing this shit no regardless of whether it was popular, and who will, most likely, still be playing this type of stuff years after it goes out of fashion again.

All this bullshit aside though, Mesozoic plays so well. The songs bleed effortlessly from one to the next, all washed in a hazy layer of reverb and delay, and driven by some stunningly simple melodies, razor sharp lead guitar lines, ethereal vocals and a relentless rhythm section. The songs tend to sound a bit samey, and a lot of the hooks will sound familiar, seemingly plucked straight from the pockets of their influences, but there is a charm here for any fans of psychedelia that is difficult to equal, the band succeeding where Tame Impala failed.

Single Black Cathedral is a standout, as are Merry Go Round and closing track Until The End, all the songs sitting comfortably within the sound described throughout this review. If you’re after variety, this isn’t the band for you, each song driven by similar rhythms and sitting pretty much within the same key, but let’s face it, this is music made for getting high, nodding your head and blissing out to, and they do it oh so well. The playing is faultless, each member delivering in a characteristically high standard, perfectly matched with the other members so that their individual parts meld together with a careful balance so as not to drop over into aimless noise. Jon Hunter (The Holy Soul) and Liam Judson (Belles Will Ring, Sister Jane) have done a great job with the production, walking that same line the players do in terms of preserving the dynamics between each member and instrument while still achieving that washed out shoegaze sound.

Whenever you’re discussing a band who’s sound is as firmly rooted in the past as The Laurels’ is, it always pays to consider whether anyone would have cared about them if they were playing alongside their influences. For instance, would anyone have listened to Wolfmother at the same time as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were playing? In the case of The Laurels, I think the answer would be a strong yes, if only because their music demonstrates such a detailed attention to the full genealogy of psychedelic, shoegaze and even just pop music, that even the bands who they’ve quite clearly taken inspiration from, at the time would’ve felt like they were listening to the future of the music that they themselves were playing.

From late Beatles weirdness, through Jesus & Mary Chain and Spaceman 3 grunt to contemporary bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Black Angels, The Laurels touch on all of it, while at the same time retaining their own flavour, that may not be completely unique, but sounds very much like them.

In a world where nostalgia is more and more becoming the most viable way to find success in the music industry, with a steady stream of lacklustre imitators rising to prominence before falling back underneath the pile of uninspired rubbish, it’s good to find a band whose adoption of a style comes from a place of love and adoration, or more accurately, obsession, considering the absurd amount of money the band have poured into gear over the years, and who find a genuine quality in their appropriation. To quote Jean Luc-Godard, “it’s not where you take from, but where you take it,” and The Laurels manage to take their influences forward with an authenticity sorely lacking in most contemporary bands attempting a similar style.