When Robert Pollard chose to bring his Boston Spaceships project to an end (the band that released our favourite album of 2011) the core of the band stayed together and formed Eyelids. Headed up by Chris Slusarenko and John Moen the band play a classic hook laden rock that evokes Big Star, The Byrds, Teenage Fanclub and Velvet Crush across their debut album 854.
Now, I’m not at all surprised that this is a good record. John Moen has played with the Jicks, The Decemberists and Eliott Smith (and dozens more, so he clearly has good taste and is a skilled musician. Chris Slusarenko to my mind is the equal of Tobin Sprout and Doug Gillard in being the perfect foil to Robert Pollard, their work together as The Takeovers is among my favourite of the Guided By Voices side-projects. What does surprise me is just how good a record it is, and one that is making a strong challenge to be my favourite of the year so far.
The album splits loosely 50/50 between John and Chris taking lead vocals and both is in fine voice on the record. Backed up with some lovely vocal harmony work the voices sound great throughout. In fact ‘854’, the albums title track, features lead vocals by them both and is possibly my favourite track on the album.
The playing is great too, with fine guitar work provided by the two lead singers as well as fellow Boston Spaceship’s alumni Jonathan Drews. A strong rhythm section (Jim Talstra on bass and Paulie Pulvirenti on drums) completes the band and we have a very full and fully formed sound on our hands.
Strong singing and playing is nothing however if the songs aren’t good enough, and my past experience of the band members gave me no clues as to their songwriting chops. The good news here is that the songs are uniformly great right from the twin single blast ofd ‘Seagulls Into Submission’ and ‘Psych #1’ through to the tense and hurried ‘Say Its Alright’ (complete with a vicious guitar solo) and the final calm of ‘From A Distance’. These are songs that have a classic sound but also have a real timeless quality, this isn’t retro-rock for the sake of it, you can tell that the band care about these songs.
Throughout the record their are sweet hooks, catchy phrases and magic moments to enjoy. ‘Abby’s Friends’, sitting in the middle of the album, possibly edges it for me as my favourite song on the record, and perfectly encapsulates all the great elements that make it such a satisfying release.
This is an album that I enjoy more with each listen, and one I expect to come back to for years to come. Hopefully it is the first of many releases from the band.
By Dorian Rogers