Bringing it All Back Home
“Classic rock” is a relative term. As a genre, it brings to mind either burnouts/burning-outs or musicians too old to have long hair and wear fringe jackets. But in 2015, it’s possible to look at bands who seek to replicate the spirit and sound of the ‘90s college radio invasion and call them the “classic rock” of today. Marion Walker, a three-piece psych-rock band whose members split their time between Reno and Seattle, recall not grunge or pop-punk, but the low-fi approach of Dinosaur and the Vaselines with their latest cassette EP, Serious Picnic.
Serious Picnic is designed to be listened to as one piece, and the band describes it as an 11-minute suite in three movements. The three songs are identifiably separate, but you don’t realize you’ve reached the second or third part until you’re halfway in. The first, “Seriously,” starts with some feedback and a crunchy two-chord progression with Kyle Walker Akins (Think in French, Yesir) and Jessie Marion Smith (Saint Genet, Dead Bird Movement) switching off on vocals, delivering a calm tenor and a distant soprano, respectively. (And if you look at their names, you can see where the band name comes from.)
At 3:35, the tempo drops and the “psych” part of their description comes into play on the aptly titled “Silver Drone.” Live, one could easily see this song expanding for several minutes, but on this EP, they keep it brief. The line between it and the third song “Volunteers” is less clear but as you approach the end you know you’re in a different place than you were in the middle.
The fact Marion Walker decided to release Serious Picnic on cassette helps their case as a ‘90s college-rock throwback, but the songs themselves do not sound dated. Credit this to the spirit of the genre; this sort of independent music was about sincerity and capturing the room, and with that Marion Walker has succeeded. Hopefully, their next release will be more accessible, physically speaking.