Another in an ongoing series of reviews of online releases by Lehigh Valley-based bands.
I couldn’t tell for sure whether the band Off-White comes from Bethlehem, Pa., or some other Bethlehem. They’re sparing with their biographical info, and a Google search didn’t turn up much.
But I figure a song title like “Absinthe or Pierogies” could only have come from a Lehigh Valley band; and that earned Off-White’s new album, What Goes On Upstairs, a free pass onto this blog.
What Goes On Upstairs is seven tracks — four of them shorter than two minutes in length — of energetic guitar-based instrumental music borrowing equally from prog, pop and punk. (They describe themselves as “free range rock indie punk,” of which make what you will.)
Some songs, like “Absinthe or Pierogies” and “James Bonsai,” land somewhere between the Ventures and the Ramones, which is an agreeable enough place to be — especially if you’re in and out in two minutes.
(“James Bonsai” also lends the inspiration of its title to the album cover. Took me a second to figure it out. Crafty.)
“Klowns” features a deceptively jolly riff that moves into a heavier, more ominous refrain. If you use your imagination, it could stand as a pretty good aural depiction of an evil clown on the march, floppy shoes kicking up dust. And it only runs 1:21 long, so if clowns freak you out, at least they don’t hang around long.
When the songs get longer, the results vary. “Shelves” mixes boingy-surfy reverb guitar with an anthemic Alex Lifeson-ish repeating riff. At four minutes and thirty-three seconds in length, it seems a little repetitious and overlong next to the material surrounding it.
“Bazooka” (which runs 2:55) is spirited enough, but feels a little derivative, with a main riff distinctly reminiscent of Black Album-era Metallica.
Things end on a promising note, with closer “Colfax Bunny” (3:46 long) offering enough variation and creativity to show these guys can hold a song together for more than two minutes.
So there you have it. Fuzz, reverb, melody, energy and (almost) no words to get in the way.
I prefer their short and trashy to their long and involved — or, to put it another way, their pierogies over their absinthe. But you can’t really fault them (whoever they are) for keeping a foot in both camps.
That’s about all for tonight; I’m going on upstairs.
Off-White’s “What Goes On Upstairs” is available as a name-your-own-price download here.