Monday, 22 November 2010
Guards - Guards EP (Syllables Records)
The debut EP from Guards has been causing quite a stir since its appearance in October. Having eschewed myspace or even a personal website in favour of a modest profile on bandcamp.com, the EP and its creators remain stubbornly enigmatic. Of course, there are the necessary credentials accompanying the EP to ensure its circulation: a name-check on New York duo Cults' twitter, and an appearance from Caroline Polachek from Chairlift on the second track, Trophy Queen. But while Guards may not have sprung from total obscurity, the deliberate ambiguity arising from the lack of information and their hard-to-Google name has whipped a fair few bloggers into something of a romantic fervour, the likes of which you don't really see so often nowadays. I've got a suspicion that this might have been Guards' game-plan all along. One listen to the EP, with its lo-fi production, reverb-heavy vocals, quavering organs and solemn sleigh-bells, and it's clear that this is a record that's saturated in nostalgia; the product of a song-writing sensibility that's rooted firmly in the 1960s. Perhaps Richie James Follin (who, by all accounts, is the brains behind Guards) is trying to simulate simpler times, when word-of-mouth was a band's best hope, mix-tapes were free, and internet music-marketing hadn't been invented.
It's undeniable that the record has a quaint, almost fragile innocence about it, that's most acute on tracks like Long Time and during the bitter-sweet vocal harmonies on the aforementioned Trophy Queen. Granted, Polachek's wailing and moaning on the latter track is a little bit erotic, but this only serves to accentuate the exquisite naivety of Follins' lyricism and singing voice. There are a lot of female-fronted bands around at the moment putting out this strain of Phil Spector-inspired, twee pop, but it's refreshing to hear a male vocalist adopt such youthful insouciance – and pull it off with sincerity and emotion. This emotion – which ranges from the languid melancholy of Sail It Slow to the summery optimism of Don't Wake The Dead – is what sets the Guards EP apart from those other 60's wannabe bands. The style doesn't sound contrived or even derivative: it sounds as if Follin has discovered the perfect medium through which to express his pertinent musings on the fleeting highs and lows of adolescence.
From album opener Resolution Of One, with its rousing, sing-along chorus, to the mournful closing track I See It Coming, this EP comprises seven equally likeable, memorable, and very different songs. There are touches of The Velvet Underground – and perhaps those who are partial to a bit of New York insolence a la The Strokes or MGMT should find something to interest them here – but truth be told, Guards have a sound that is admirably unique. This EP is a promising effort from an act who undoubtedly have plenty more left to give.
Words : Tegan Rogers