Loose in the Air
atador’s signing of Brooklyn’s The Double earlier this year sounded loudly like a bid at rekindling the flame of indie rock with the genre’s heyday a decade in dying. One listen to Loose in the Air and you’re flooded with an uneasy feeling that that there must be a million bands that sound like them in these strange days of retro-fetishization and its assertive lover, the brooding authenticity-irony dude. A million denim-clad postgrads waiting for marketing spots with tousled hair and a studied far-off gaze, a million dead-ends of stylistic pastiche tossing in their sleep hearing the hiss of “hipster” whispered through their nightmares.
When you get a good eye on it though, The Double wants to do the 60’s and 70’s again like Pavement did, drawing in influences with a dab of irreverence, waxing the chest hair of classic rock and brushing its mop aside (what pretty eyes you have) only to reveal something weirdly antithetical to the original influence. If those mid-90’s golden boys had a genial dude-ness and whimsical wit, The Double are their arty kid brothers. In effect, they’re conceptually a good match for the big-time-lovin’-was-a-long-time-comin’ Spoon, whose distorted echoes of bygone rock modes has couched them somewhere more distinctive than rip-snortin’ garage theater or post-punk idealizations.
Loose in the Air is nocturnal 60’s style guitar-based music with a penchant for dub and noise, albeit in compact flourishes. While jacking these influences up to tidy soundbyte levels always sounds about as futile as trying to bottle the ocean, at least they reach somewhere outside handclaps and flaccid disco breaks. The rest of the distance is made up with a sound resembling the edge of moody psych, like a bipolar pop Nuggets: more caustic and more effete, less druggy, and more into beautiful shit like ghosts and thunder.
Last year’s Palm Fronds was a trippy affair that invoked the homey, stained wall-to-wall carpet solipsism of mid-90’s cassette-only labels, truly a lo-fi record in sensibility and not simply studio character (unsurprisingly, it was released on New York’s formerly cassette-only imprint Catsup Plate). Disembodied grooves curdled in static and all empty holes were filled with bubbling hum and noise. That record’s distant, gnarled melancholy was a shadow of what they’ve become on Loose in the Air.
Still, there’s something to be said for shadows in their alluring indeterminacy. What was once fog-magic is now more like porn. Any holes have turned into black latex with smoke blown over them, and drummer Jeff McLeod has recovered from a hand injury that forced Palm Fronds into understated, kitchen-sink percussion. What was once fleshy is now hard and slick, and the empty spaces leave room for good old fashioned geometric interplay to their sound, rather than breezy swathes.
Loose in the Air’s style-as-content vibe can wear thin at times. Their stopgap solutions to the occasional limp groove or dull hook seem to be to jack up the effects or get noisy, and it’s not terribly subtle. A couple songs sound wedged in like forced placeholders, i.e. “here is our facile acknowledgement of African-style percussion” or “this is where we have an atmospheric piano song.” It’s the moments that aren’t, excuse me, loose in the air, that work best. The sturdy feedback jaunt of “Idiocy” or the stoned-out gravel cough of “What Sound it Makes the Thunder” work—and damn well—because the band seems to forget its precious thesis in order to rock a little, thank you.
The Double has a high ambition of making outré textures pop, but their obliqueness can walk a fine line between compelling and evasively wussy. That said, it’s not hard to imagine Loose provoking a cream-fest, which is fine. When most contemporary “indie rock” bands seem dedicated to either a) sublimating their indie rock-ness in historical re-treads or b) sucking, The Double feel like a sturdy enough bet.