Brass (Modern Art)
Knoxville’s Royal Bangs sound like a mad carousel spun off its axis, or maybe a music box possessed by poltergeists hopped up on speed. And that’s a good thing; the band’s frenetically paced records serve up purees of punk, new wave, ’70s pop, and piano rock, in ways that rarely fail to charm or surprise. Does all the noise and frenzy ever make for sensory overload? Occasionally, though less often on their new album, Brass—produced by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney—than on previous efforts. The data dump is dialed back a little this time out, and the result is a little more coherent, if marginally less thrill-ride breathtaking than in the past. On a few tracks, the tempo is slow enough that the band’s antecedents are made plain—like when singer Ryan Schaefer’s Bono-esque inclinations lend the opening track “Better Run” an extra layer of warm urgency, or when the Bangs run through the groove-laden keyboard rocker “Octagon” reading straight from the Ben Folds playbook. But in the main, the Royal Bangs sound like they always have—that is to say, they sound like the Royal Bangs, with all the schizoid lunacy that entails. And that’s a good thing, too.