Big Walnuts Yonder Impress with Technical, Thoughtful Music
What started off as just emailing back and forth between busy musicians, according to a Consequence of Sound interview, ended up as Big Walnuts Yonder — a new take on alternative indie rock. The massive brainchild of Mike Watt (Minutemen, The Stooges), Nels Cline (Wilco, Nels Cline Singers), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) and Nick Reinhart (Tera Melos), Big Walnuts Yonder’s self-titled debut is an album that can stand the test of time. The way this ten-song LP artfully transitions between fairly different songs while keeping the same tone is absolutely exquisite.
The first song, “All In All,” is jazzy, brassy and full of funk. Then, suddenly, it jumps into a sound that’s more in line with early 2000s alternative rock. It’s catchy and pulls listeners in right away, even if they have no idea who the band might be. Simply put, it is the song on the album to which listeners can dance. While there’s all of this noise going on with the instrumentals, there are the very light vocals of Watt, floating above the sound in a very distinct fashion. It’s also pretty clear from the first song that the drums in each song are going to be impressive.
“Sponge Bath” starts off with an eerie laugh and a creepy, muted opening, which grows with anticipation. Once again, Watt’s vocals lend a hand to a playful banter between a fast guitar riff and a drum pattern that complements the jazz feel heard on the previous track. What is cool about this song is that, even though the vocals are soft and monotone, the diction is very apparent with each word sung. The lyrics are unapologetically poetic in a way that tickles the neck, while Watt croons into the listener’s ear. Big Walnuts Yonder sounds on point through headphones, in the car and on a speaker; even a laptop doesn’t hack the quality of the work.
“Flare Star Phantom” is a subdued instrumental, keeping that eerie and creepy beginning that almost sounds like someone walking through an empty house with all of the lights flickering. “I Got Marty Feldman Eyes” takes on a vibe that’s influenced heavily by the sounds of the ’90s. And “Ready to Pop” is reminiscent of psychedelic rock and garage punk. “Rapid Driver Moon Inhaler” and “Raise the Draw Bridges,” on the other hand, take on a more noisy, brash and aggressive sound.
“Forgot to Brush” has a beach vibe that’s perfect for summer 2017. Even though the sound changes, there’s still an eerie, lingering tone that wiggles along with the guitar strings. This song is easily one of the best tracks on the album. While they’re not entirely unique, Big Walnuts Yonder are emulating pretty much every other indie band right now, and they are doing it better, bigger and stronger.
The last two songs, “Pud” and “Heat Melter,” take on a lighthearted tone that only falls short of bubblegum pop because of the wild, noisy, yet meticulous, sounds produced by each musician involved. It’s hard to pinpoint what stands out in a track because Big Walnuts Yonder are pristine, technical and experimental as a group. There’s just enough punk to bob your head, just enough pop to appease the masses, and then some.