The influence of alt-rock from the 90’s has proven to be indelible, but that could be said about anything else in the arts. Wormstar, a project based in Auckland, New Zealand, joins the long line of great bands to recently come out of Oceania. The band’s frontman Alex Angrignon handles the majority of the songwriting and instruments, with Al Humphreys on the drums. Turning Red, their debut full length record, doesn’t put any new “spin” on their influences, but rather, fold the rudiments of 90’s alt-rock into their own sound.
Their slacker rock influences are easy to discern right at the very start of the record. The opener “Better Reasons” sounds faintly familiar to “Summer Babe,” borrowing its melodic but spunky bass, oscillating synths, and warm fuzzy guitars. The misty “Ditched” reminisces to another familiar song with hesitant shimmering guitars as Angrignon sings of one night stands and missed opportunities.
Like with Yo La Tengo on “Painful”, the band veers off into the hazy waters of shoegaze, but don’t totally succumb to the wall of sound. Still maintaining their slacker-bility, the results are less aggressive on the reverb and fuzz but their pop impluses shining through on “So Stale (You’re The Icebreaker)” and the even poppier “Whatever Keeps You High.” The tempered “Spring Steps” sounds like a collaboration between Luna and the Silver Jews, with the band fluttering between dream pop and alt-Americana.
The title-track’s fidgety tempo and harmonies weirdly reminds me of the one-hit wonders that cropped up throughout the decade. Matching Angrignon’s eternal state of anxiousness, “Some Things Don’t Even Matter” and “Nearly Crossed My Mind” are a callback to the noisier alt bands, a la Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., with frenzied guitars, layered with a good portion of lukewarm fuzz.
Turning Red is a strong homage to the recent past, borrowing bits from various influences and seamlessly working them into their own sonic identity.
Cereal Pairing: Corn Pops