'Ordinary, Everyday Degredation' - Remo Drive / Turned Up Louder
If you’re looking for a chilled-out soundtrack to fill the space in the air on long, drawn-out summer days, then look no further than Minnesota fraternal duo Remo Drive. Following their 2017 debut ‘Greatest Hits’, brothers Erik and Stephen Paulson spent their days touring extensively, and feeling the oppressive, pressure-cooker environment of the tour van with full force. Much of those experiences have found their way into the repetitious atmosphere of their sophomore record, ‘Ordinary, Everyday Degradation’, which is packed with breathless rhythms and endlessly rolling soundscapes.
Humid and bright are two words that definitely feed their way into much of this record. Opener ‘Two Bux’ plays on its bright, warm guitar tone, for an ambient, buttery flow that allows the lilting vocals to drift unencumbered over the melody. Alike in tone is ‘Around the Sun’. Summery and effervescent, the carefree melody masks a darker lyrical influence that centres around the notion that ‘There’s sadness in routine… even in the happiest of situations, we’re losing valuable moments or time’: something that musically is echoed only minutely in the crunchier grumble of the bassline.
While there is depth to the thought processes that fuelled this record, it is impossible to omit that much of it doesn’t necessarily spark a gut response on the first listen. The unexpected plunge of the bassline in the opening of ‘The Devil’ adds an initial layer of intrigue, and the climbing choral vocals add something of an orchestral feel, yet the track as a whole just begs for a little more kick to rescue it from being too lightweight and unchallenging. Facing the same sorts of critique is the unempoymously named ‘Shakin’’: while the growling bassline gives the track some depth, that idiosyncratic, mid-tempo monotony remains unbroken. While not inconceivable that the airy, elevated chorus lines will get a mid-afternoon festival crowd swaying, the track sadly doesn’t build as it progresses, which is made all the more irksome by the fact that, if given room to breathe, the zesty guitar tone could have made this track something truly absorbing. Frustrations are also a feature of the closing seconds of ‘Dog’. Initially with more volume than its predecessors, despite its pace being slower still, its darker, sludgier vibe in the verses is a refreshing change of pace. However, the chorus screams out for a meatier lead guitar, which one may be led to believe is coming as the drums build in the final few bars, bringing with it the promise of a festival-ready chorus, that is again denied by the heart-wrenching end of the track’s run time. There are exceptions, however: ironically, ‘The Grind’ picks the pace picks up a notch, bringing with it a melody with enough lively bounce underneath it to elevate it, and a pulsing kick drum that almost begs you to clap along. Again, it is the drums that drive the track along through a vivacious chorus, and while the vocal performances remain serene and unobtrusive, it packs a very small touch more punch than much of the record’s early stages.
At times, this lacklustre approach to a song’s elaboration is ideal for the tracks’ subject matter. The ambient guitar tones in the opening verse of ‘Separate Beds’ marries well with the emotive subject matter, as the lyrics paint poignant static images of a relationship gone stale in vivid detail. While the meandering melody marries well with the lyrical monotony, it verges on infuriating when the sun breaks over the horizon in the choruses, yet fails to bring about a satisfying blaze of summer sunshine, instead descending into distorted vocals that slowly slip beneath the proverbial waves. Similarly, the constrictive air of oppression mirrors the inner self-imposed manacles of the titular characters on ‘Ezra and Marla’, with the shivering vocals, at odds with the easy melody, whose only real drive comes once again from the heartbeat pulse of the drums, whose rollicking and rolling again only feeds into a sharp plunge into the fading closing phrases.
It is only when one reaches ‘Halos’, however, that an unexpected squeal of distortion ribboning the guitar piques the listener out of their reverie. Deviating from the rut established in the early part of the record, here the backing is allowed to fall away in the chorus to allow the song space to breathe, and it is all the better for it. Space is granted from the off-kilter melodies to be showcased to their full, strain on the vocals into the last chorus are a more than welcome inclusion. Though the verses announce familiar lulls back into safety, the grumble of the opening guitars adds a flavour of bite ‘Mirror’. As such, the livelier choruses and the light pummelling of the drums in the bridge is a welcome delight that is guaranteed to finally get those fists waving! Closer ‘The Truth’ boasts perhaps the best bassline of them all: low and bumbling, when paired with the rattlesnake drums, the two imbibe the melody with vigour that would have been unthinkable in the record’s opening half. Indeed, ‘Ordinary, Everyday Degradation’ is very much a record that matures as it progresses. While the first half can all too easily pass you by in a droll haze, elements of the second are a touch more daring, and as a result, it is all the more intriguing. While this record has its moments of promise, building on those could see Remo Drive becoming a very stirring prospect indeed.
'Ordinary, Everyday Degredation' is due for release on June 14th via Epitaph Records.
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'Around the Sun' below: