A long time ago, one of my old NME colleagues described a pretty rackety record – approvingly, I should say – as sounding like “a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs.” That phrase came back to me this morning when I put on the debut Abe Vigoda album for the first time in a while.
I think “Skeleton” may have been out in the States for a few months, though it’s only getting a UK release in about a fortnight. Abe Vigoda are from LA, and are reputedly connected with that scene of bands clustered around The Smell club which has already birthed, among others, No Age.
Abe Vigoda don’t sound much like No Age (the reverberant scrape of instrumental “Visi Rings” apart): their chaotic, exuberant noise is much cleaner and more sprung than that duo’s fuzzed-out sound. After some hard graft from the sort of critics who spent their time compartmentalising bands into neat new genres, it seems we’re meant to call Abe Vigoda’s sound “Tropical punk”. Which means, basically, that they play with a certain pseudo-unhinged velocity while having a rhythmic vigour and a delirious, ambulatory guitar sound that ties them in with the current vogue for Afro-influenced indie.
If I can join in the genre hair-splitting, they actually sound more like a particularly frantic post-punk band to my ears, though one who have obviously taken on board (like No Age) the hurtling potency of ‘80s US hardcore, too. I think it was “Bear Face”, playing in the office a couple of months ago, which prompted a passing sub to compare them to “XTC playing soukous”, which isn’t bad.
But that suggests a sort of whimsical self-consciousness which isn’t quite so apparent. Obviously, Abe Vigoda’s sound has come about via some presumably intensive plotting – for all the manic clatter of these 14 songs, there’s a real clarity and purpose to a lot of them that suggests algorhytmic complexity as much as hipster spontaneity. The ringing lead guitar that cuts through everything has a kind of detuned hi-life tone to it which is really engaging, especially on “Endless Sleeper”.
Which drives us to the glib, but more or less accurate, 2008 contextualisation, placing Abe Vigoda as a deluxe gnarly hybrid of Vampire Weekend and Sonic Youth. Works for me. . .