By: Kyle Donley
Boston’s The Grownup Noise has a band name that is anything but ironic. What?! A new indie band without a hint of detached, ironic witticism?! Settle down, hipsters, it’s true. The Grownup Noise make music that sounds like… well, grownup noise. With their EP, Shall We? (2010- self released) the four-piece craft mature, albeit writhing, pop music with rollicking acoustic guitars, pounded piano chords and a cello. That’s right, grownups play cello.
Okay, so maybe The Grownup Noise is somewhat of an ironic title for a band that clearly takes pop craftsmanship seriously. Shall We? delivers its fair share of melody by way of adult contemporary catchiness. There’s no “noise” to be found here, really, as noise would imply dissonance of some kind. The cellist never plays using a beer bottle, no distorted pan flute solos, no acoustic experimentation reminiscent of Gastr del Sol or Mice Parade. Maybe a more fitting band name would be Give This Album To Your Parents.
However, the “noise” that The Grownup Noise seem to be referring to is that of emotional heftiness displayed through the intense interplay of piano and guitar, as well as opaque, vaguely urgent lovelorn lyrics involving “trains arriving” and “taking pills of despair.” Believe it or not, this is when The Grownup Noise are at their best. With singer-guitarist Paul Hansen sounding like James Taylor if he was one of the 500 members of Broken Social Scene, songs like “The Artist Type” and “Outside” elicit beauty out of otherwise trite material - the former with its hypercatchy melancholy (and a dead-ringer for Stars circa Set Yourself On Fire), the latter with its acoustic harmonics and palm-muting restraint smothered in looming intensity that never quite bubbles over.
Shall We? falters when the songs slow down, trading in urgency for wistful ruminations heavy on lilting cello parts. This ranges from “So It Goes,” a largely boring number that only gets interesting when Hansen shuts up for the coda’s swelling organ flourishes, to “Strawmen,” whose potential is overwhelmed by the song’s generic pop formula, to “Six Foot Solemn Oath,” nothing more than puke-pants, cry-baby garbage that seems overly impressed with its cute boy-girl vocals and seventh grade poetry (“Hear the sound of the snow,” what?!).
The Grownup Noise are not trying to be fashionable Brooklynite provocateurs. Which is fine - Lord knows there’s enough of those little bastards running around, wearing acid-wash cut offs and paint-splattered boat shoes. However, to compare their sound to the “blind intensity” of The Velvet Underground (as they do under the bio section on their website) is a crock of shit. This is indie adult contemporary. A hit single or two mixed in with filler, sounding pretty for pretty’s sake.
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