In 2010, back when they were still a duo called Reading Rainbow, the Philadelphia band Bleeding Rainbow released Prism Eyes, exactly the sort of very good indie rock album that gets overlooked all the damn time. There wasn’t any grand narrative to Reading Rainbow; they were just too people who played very good straight-ahead garage rock with calm confidence and hooks to burn. The guitars jangled and shimmied and pounded, and Sarah Everton sugary-catchy sweet nothings in an absolutely bored-all-time-time voice. It was awesome. But things have changed for the band since then. They’ve doubled their ranks, adding a full-time rhythm section, and they’ve changed their name to something that’s less of a litigation-magnet. (They’re saying they changed it because Carrie Brownstein made fun of it, but I’ve checked, and LeVar Burton definitely did not host a 1980s children’s reading-is-fun show called Bleeding Rainbow, so maybe that also had something to do with the change.) And now they’ve made Yeah Right, a very different album but one that seems just as likely to be overlooked. Too bad! It’s awesome too!
Yeah Right still has the same types of straightforward melodies that Prism Eyes had, but now they’re calmer and more spaced-out. The guitars don’t sprint anymore; they shimmer and swoop. Everton’s voice sounds less tough, more vulnerable. Someone recorded everything through better microphones, and now nothing sounds like it’s caked in grime. It’s not a shoegaze album exactly, but there is that sense that someone has spent time sculpting guitar-feedback into exactly the right tones. The effect is to remind me of early-’90s alt-rock radio, when bands were just starting to carve out places for themselves by coating pop songs in guitar fuzz and creating a sort of bubblegrunge that briefly thrived before all the Eddie Vedder soundalikes came along and ruined everything forever. These days, Bleeding Rainbow certainly aren’t alone in evoking that sound; just this week, the History Of Apple Pie’s (very good) debut album Out Of View sasquatch-stomps on a lot of the same ground. But Bleeding Rainbow do it with style and heart and songwriting chops, and that’s all you can really ask for.
It’s not like they’ve made a new classic here or anything; the album has its weaknesses. None of it drags, but certain songs, especially toward the end, fuzz-rumble their way into the background. It probably didn’t need to be 51 minutes long; someone could’ve cut out a few of those effects-pedal flare-ups between verses and kept the momentum humming along more forcefully. It’s frontloaded. But the album’s high points don’t just make up for those weaknesses; they give them shape and context. Unless we’re going to talk about the Jesus And Mary Chain or whatever, none of the bands that Bleeding Rainbow evokes ever made an album that didn’t beg for editing, and the sleepier parts just drive home how hard this band is chasing its chosen sound this time around.
And the high points just kill me. Songs like opener “Go Ahead,” with its sadly evocative chiming intro and its heartbeat-thump drums and slow explosion of melancholy, are the reason God invented teen-movie heartbreak montages. “Drift Away” somehow turns a Crazy Horse stomp-riff into a bed for Ride-style flanger-waves and Mamas And The Papas staring-out-windows harmonies but keeps that elemental push intact. “Waking Dream” is sun-dazed euphoria that would’ve done the Monkees proud. And even during the weaker parts, Sarah Everton’s voice is a wonder: A simple and affectless wail that always conveys serious depths without ever showing off. Other bands working this style would blunt the impact of a singer like that by drowning her voice in reverb or burying it under all those piles of guitar. Not this band. Everton is always front and center. Her husband and co-founder Rob Garcia sings too, often in close harmony with Everton, and the band actually does pull all those tricks to hide his voice. And that works just fine, since it just becomes an extra supporting player for Everton’s clarity.
So no: Yeah Right is not going to change your life, or give you an evening of relentlessly pleasurable lyrics-sheet poring-over. But it’s still an intensely pleasurable album, one done in a style that a lot of bands play but very few ever master. Today in Virginia, it’s randomly like 65 degrees and sunny outside, and an album like this one sounds just perfect. Don’t overlook it.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Local Natives’ smooth and assured sophomore effort Hummingbird.
• Tegan And Sara’s slick but heartfelt dancefloor move Heartthrob.
• Ducktails’ surprisingly robust full-band college-rock excursion The Flower Lane.
• Tomahawk’s all-star scrape-rocker Oddfellows.
• Buke & Gase’s experimental indie-pop LP General Dome.
• The History Of Apple Pie’s nicely executed fuzz-pop debut Out Of View.
• Clientele side project Amor De Dias’s new one The House At Sea.
• Ill Bill’s unflinching, clattering Brooklyn rap throwdown The Grimy Awards.
• Indians’ swirling psych-popper Somewhere Else.
• The Ruby Suns’ keyboard-happy beach-rock album Christopher.
• High Highs’ synthy, laid-back Open Season.
• Ablebody’s synth-rock solo debut All My Everybody.
• Aussie duo Lost Animal’s cathartic debut Ex-Tropical.
• Destiny’s Child’s hits-plus-new-song collection Love Songs.