Come for the Band Name, Stay for the Talent
With a name like Ringo Deathstarr, one has to assume that this Austin shoegaze-noise-pop trio has a sense of humor. That’s important, because otherwise lyrics like “Can’t spend time with my friends / ‘Cause I no longer have friends” would be met with an eye-roll. Knowing right off that a band, especially a band whose brand of music is not typically associated with “fun,” doesn’t take themselves too seriously, helps set an expectation for the listener. With their latest EP, God’s Dream, Ringo Deathstarr establishes that tone early, and that gives them license to hurl musical whims at your head to great effect.
God’s Dream begins sharply with “Bong Load,” a song that falls just short of channeling My Bloody Valentine but rather clearly and respectfully celebrates their influence. Notes drone and bend, not only on the guitars, but also on the lead vocals (both provided by Elliot Frazier). Bassist Alex Gehring does her best Bilinda Butcher impression on the backing vocals, further solidifying the comparison. On subsequent numbers, however, the sonic range grows in various directions as God’s Dream takes shape. “Chainsaw Morning” starts with a synth loop but quickly dives into an enticing hybrid of Fugazi and Smashing Pumpkins with a hint of Silversun Pickups. Here, it’s obvious that Ringo Deathstarr is not interested in being pigeon-holed, thank you.
Gehring’s voice carries the title track, and though it’s heavily and deliberately processed, establishes that she possesses a tone that is her own — breathy, throaty, smooth, perfect support for this atmospheric jam. “Nowhere” goes everywhere, with crashing drums and thundering bass, elevating Frazier’s slightly off-kilter melody. Gehring handles the refrain, drowned out by the noise, but that’s clearly their purpose. God’s Dream ends with “Tumb Bubble,” a number that is playful at its core but with every bit of noise Ringo Deathstarr can muster thrown in, a perfect culmination to an album filled with misdirection and surprise.