POWER PLAY Holy Boys Danger Club step in swinging.
The second EP from Holy Boys Danger Club comes with only two real deficiencies: 1) The name. The Boo Box? Sounds like something my six-year-old made in art class. It just doesn't convey the swaggering, guttural rock this band are capable of; 2) Not nearly long enough. After the tease of 2009's Lessons for Liars, I was more than ready for a full-length, and the six songs here leave me consistently wanting more.
That's not all bad, I realize. Plenty of records struggle to hold your attention for 40 minutes. This record grabs you by the throat from measure one, though, and I want them to flex their muscles, show their range. Frankly, I'd be plenty happy with just more of the same.
Frontman Miek Rodrigue has emerged as a force with his vocals, a weighty rasp like a jagged-edged weapon, capable of conveying real emotion and harsh detachment. I haven't heard anything like it since Richard Butler was fronting the Psychedelic Furs (in fact, I'd pay good money to see these guys cover "Pretty in Pink," but that's the nostalgia talking). Add to that some of the grimiest, wide-open guitar sounds producer Jonathan Wyman has ever elicited and you've got something like the Strokes covering the Hold Steady, smart and swaggering, frothing at the mouth and hearts on their sleeves.
The two openers, "Better" and "The Pressure," positively breathe, sucking all the air out of the room and then exhaling a torrent of sound. The first moves from muted guitar with just bass and high-hat time-keeping to frantic dueling guitar strums backed by manic organ riffs. Spencer Albee guests here, actually, and I'm not sure I've ever heard him play with such wild abandon, cymbals crashing in the background. Then it's nothing but snare work from Dan Capaldi and Nathan Cyr's bass bouncing on a single note, lying in wait for a full-on jam. As the song finishes in lingering feedback you can almost see the sweat rolling down from their temples.
"Pressure" follows similar dynamics, but the guitars are more to the fore, Rodrigue and Zach Jones (not the Zach Jones who used to be in As Fast As) snaking and coiling around one another. There's a great contrast between the languid vocal delivery of the verse, "Heard all those bastards from downtown/They won't leave you alone," and the staccato pop of the chorus: "It's going up, up, up/It's going down, down, down."
Most impressively, these songs are really tight, without a note wasted, a trait they're evidencing for the first time. Their debut Lessons for Liars was recorded before they were really a band, and it showed. The ideas were great, but the execution wasn't quite there. On Boo Box, the execution is worlds better. On Liars, the acoustic closing song was "Tri-State Heartache," a six-minute opus, more than a little bit aimless, with a clumsy moment or two and lots of big-room effect. Here, the requisite acoustic track is "Bedsheets," a piece that shows off a nice call and response between the guitar and piano, is under two minutes, and merges effortlessly into the closing "Letter to the General," where Rodrigue ups his register and hints at Perry Farrell, backed by a wall of sound.