Reptar Bemuse With Bewildering Indie Pop Album 'Lurid Glow'
As I sit down and press play on 'Lurid Glow’s' opener, "No One Will Ever Love You", half expecting an 80’s tinged indie-emo-disco number to break out from my speakers, a cloud parts outside and a burst of sunshine fills the room, as if pathetic fallacy is foreshadowing the summer-wrapped hysteria that is to follow in the next forty-one minutes.
Graham Ulicny’s trademark-ably indecipherable lyrics delivered in sharp stabs of hollered melody match Reptar’s equally as manic approach to indie-pop, but you don’t need to understand what’s being said, rather what’s being conveyed: no one will ever love you, but hey that’s okay, because guess what? Love sucks. So… looks like you win! Now let’s dance.
You’d be forgiven for not previously having heard of Reptar; the band’s 2012 debut 'Body Faucet' was a bitter pill to swallow. Their bewildering brand of indie-pop - akin to Animal Collective in its resemblance - was an overwhelming collection of hyperactive guitar and synth driven songs that struggled to hit the mark as much as it missed it. Whilst the quartet from Athens, Georgia, are unlikely to appear on any digital streaming ad campaigns surrounded by a conglomerate of pop superstars any time soon, they might just sneak onto one of your summer playlists this year - or soundtrack an episode of Made In Chelsea.
Reptar have developed their song writing, learning from past mistakes. On their debut, songs suffered in their length with few tracks falling below the four minute mark, making the album feel sluggish and drawn out. 'Lurid Glow', however, benefits from more tightly written songs, and the band seems settled on a strong and coherent formula for pop, straying away from the temptation to indulge in tangential mismatched bridges.
Shortest track on the album and the band’s shortest to date, "Easier to Die", is two and a half minutes of tight, concise pop perfection that begs repeated listens and could easily have served as a leading single. At the heart of 'Lurid Glow' the band further impress with the sobering "Amanda", where Ulicny shows off his tender side accompanied by a steady jungle beat. “Do you love me?” he calls out desperately, answered only by the reverb on his microphone. The song boasts some of the frontman’s strongest lyrics, writing "Amanda" as an ode to the plight of the Modern Man attempting to charm a lover from behind the screen and across the wire, but fumbling when it comes to the face-to-face.
The commercial success of 'Lurid Glow' could well come down to the decision not to champion the previously mentioned "Easier to Die" in favour of first cut, "Ice Black Sand." The latter is a stomping, horn-blazing march that endures like a royal announcement and makes for an almost unlistenable experience – more intensely garish than lurid glow. “No suspicion/ Not common sense/ What is it?/ Pain or memory,” Ulicny strains as he introduces the track. Pain? - Yes. Memories? – Only bad ones. As the track approaches its crescendo, what more could possibly beat horns? More horns, of course! Sadly horns on top of horns is an experiment that does not pay dividends on "Ice Black Sand".
Follow-up single "Cable" is an improvement on the fallout from the previous single, and horns here accentuate instead of smothering the beat which is driven by a simple, yet, confidently strutting series of guitar chords. Ulicny’s vocals on "Cable" are supercharged, his voice almost burdened by its own intensity; the punch with which the repeated line “meaning LOST” is delivered sounding comically like the hyper-macho growls you might hear an instructor uttering in the soundtrack to an 80’s aerobics DVD; again it is just another dabble that doesn’t quite cut the mustard.
As 'Lurid Glow' played, a list of adjectives I had compiled in readiness to begin describing Reptar’s sound included: “deranged,” “mystifying,” “berserk,” “stupefying,” and “lunacy” amongst others. Reptar are equally as likely to disorientate on their follow-up as they are to charm and animate; the progress made is encouraging and points towards a more accomplished indie-pop sound. All in all, 'Lurid Glow’s' title serves as the literal embodiment of its resounding feeling: whilst the music Reptar deliver here is brash and unashamedly fun, 'Lurid Glow' is marred by moments of erraticisity that obscure the dazzling lights hidden within it from lighting up the rooms of others.
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Words by Dylan Morin