When we posted on Walk It Off’s lead track “Hang Them All,” we basically said: If you didn’t care about Tapes ‘N Tapes before, you likely still wouldn’t. Well, after listening to all 12 tracks on the band’s Dave Fridmann-produced sophomore album, we’re changing our tune a tiny bit. What we noticed in the comments when the album streamed for a day is that people are actually discussing Fridmann’s production. On songs like the catchy, clamoring opener “Le Ruse” (that jittery guitar) or “The Dirty Dirty” (great drum sound, though the song itself drags), Fridmann adds an element that was absent on The Loon (except for in some distorted vocals a la “Just Drums”). He makes the songs sound dirty, which makes things more interesting. For instance, check the depth of the drumkit on “Say Something Back.” The almost Sonic Youth-y swells of “George Michael.” Or, fittingly, the overloaded guitar channels of “Headstock.” It may be a turn-off to fans of the debut, but it adds much-needed scum. Thing is, while the production points toward growth, the same can’t always be said for the songwriting.
At their worst, the band lacks a specific identity. Here/there, they’re basically a hodgepodge of various groups — you hear a little Modest Mouse (everywhere), or Pixies (“Blunt”), or that band you can’t quite remember right now (everywhere), or Pavement. In these moments, it’s like you asked someone to define “indie rock,” and they opted to jumble together an assemblage of folks who did it better.
We dig “Le Ruse,” the slap-happy, ska-accented “Hang Them All” (hello, Modest Mouse), that aforementioned noisy escalation in “George Michael,” and ditto “Headstock” (especially the outro). Some songs are pleasant: “Conquest” reminds us of Vampire Weekend, or David Byrne. There are more than a few throwaways. Maybe the most egregious is the plodding “Demon Apple.” This is a spot where Fridmann fails as well, with unnecessary synth squiggles. But then he adds interestingly distorted layers to “Blunt,” an otherwise pointless excuse to make use of tambourine. Save. Unfortunately, he can’t save the turgid “Anvil” … or far too many other uninteresting moments.
Walk It Off is out 4/8 via XL.