A Worthy Diversion
Like the dude muse from “I Want Candy,” Heliotropes are tough but sweet. Their latest LP, Over There That Way, boasts pretty much all the sounds that you might think an group named after a flower might conjure: There’s the wistful crooning of a Motown girl group in “Wherever You Live,” complete with a saxophone solo that fades out, forlorn. There’s the lo-fi, trebly, but ever-earnest strumming of the Pixies-influenced indie rock that fills out “Easy.” “My Only Friends” checks the garage-psych box with a thick blanket of bleary feedback and phaser-soaked guitar leads.
But just when things seem a little too tranquil, the mammoth riff of “Dardanelles Pt. 1” sullenly plods through the azalea fields, bloated with the low gain and high bass of a sludgy Black Sabbath cut as it tramples the fauna in its path. Heliotropes turn the big muff back up for the crunchy “War Isn’t Over,” a robust riff rocker fuzzy enough to stand alongside any of the stoner rock bands that sprung from the demise of Kyuss.
The shift between the soulful pop and Electric Wizard is perplexing in an exciting way. Sonically shoving Diana Ross in next to Blue Cheer jolts the attentive listener in a way that feels very purposeful on the part of the Brooklyn band. Regrettably, however, Heliotropes tend to keep the sludge out of the rose bushes for the most part – the twain of the aggressive and the lush never quite meet. Or, at least, never wholly meld. The loud/soft progression feels very segmented by their short songs. Opener “Normandy” rides the trendy wave of 60’s surf rock crossed with the breathy vocals and loose, clattering percussion of 90’s shoegaze, strolling the trendy medium between the rumbling bridge pickups and rippling dream pop shared by contemporaries La Luz and The Muscadettes, but the biggest head scratcher is the album’s title track. A disturbingly sexy, Leonard Cohen-like male voice joins in on the verse of the shuffling ghost town dirge, bringing a new melancholy to the dusty western tune.
Over There That Way is a lot of things, but it’s certainly not self-indulgent. It’s hazy and amorphous, yet keeps its distance from the type of dream pop that merely dissolves into itself halfway through an otherwise decent song. There’s plenty of reverb effects to be had, but Heliotropes’ music feels very anchored in pop structures, even when its gets wild and raucous. Restraint can be a good thing, and this group knows just when to reign it in.