Just Say “Yes”
On El Prado, LA-based band NO conjure up a warm afternoon that sounds like most of The National and Bloc Party’s drummer Matt Tong got together and decided to bash out some sun-drenched melancholia. Or, perhaps, it’s simply what Matt Berninger and crew would sound like were they from California instead of Ohio. In any case, NO have created an album that resonates with a collection of colorful and beautifully arranged songs that straddle the high-wires that link life, love and loss.
“Monday” is one of the songs in which the Tong-esque drums come out to play, creating a kinetic, danceable rhythm on which spacey guitars and keys ride while the vocals cry out, “I don’t wanna live in SoHo / No, I just want happiness this year.” The lead guitar riff is about the catchiest a listener will find on the album. It invokes the upbeat spirit of New Order’s “Age of Consent.” Perhaps this is an ode to a band whose acronym seems familiar?
“Hold On” is one of the album’s mid- to low-tempo tracks. The echoey toms, harmonic chants and chiming guitars occasionally reach anthem territory before NO rein it in. The vocal melody brims with authentic emotion as the lyrics of chorus closes with, “Ah but trust me, they’ll get you home / Those lonely footsteps, these winding roads.” This is probably the best song on the album, encompassing the scope of the band’s talent. It experiments with uplifting chorale notes, reaching high up into the mountains while still tethered to the drudgery of those who toil at sea level. It’s as if Bono pulled a Pope Francis and drove an old Renault but kept residence in a modest studio apartment.
El Prado is a notable debut. NO is one of only a few bands in the indie or mainstream sphere who seem poised to continue the sacred art of reinvigorating guitar-based rock in 2014. Given the trajectory they’ve established on El Prado, this is a comforting realization.