The New Loud, Measures Melt
By DJ Hostettler, Erika Bock & Jeff Moody
DJ: The New Loud have been a Milwaukee fixture for nearly a decade, so how is it possible that Measures Melt is their full-length debut? The blame for his long-overdue treat can probably be laid on guitarist/vocalist/producer Shane Olivo, a relentless perfectionist whose studio chops have made bands like the Box Social, 7 Angels 7 Plagues, and Beatallica sound awesome (or in the case of Fallout Boy, at least less sucky). Knowing his attention to detail in the studio, it’s probably no surprise that the benefit of owning his own studio made Measures Melt a luxurious, meticulous project.
Erika: They’re channeling Shiny Toy Guns. It’s kind of freaking me out. The vocal harmonies, the synths, the grittier guitar bits to break it up, it’s very Shiny Toy Guns. I mean, I like Shiny Toy Guns, but I was expecting this to be like their ME(Secrets)YOU EP. A little more rock, a little less…video game/MIDI/*pew pew pew*. I’m going to stop typing “Shiny Toy Guns” now.
The first four tracks sound like a cross between bad Euro dance-pop and awesome hip children’s show music. Like something they’d have on Yo Gabba Gabba. Does it sound like I don’t like this record? Because I kind of do. Even the super-syrupy dance pop…but probably only in small doses, or when I’m cleaning my apartment. It’s good cleaning music!
They redid “Secrets” and “Heartattack” from that EP. I like the previous versions better. They were a little less slick. The production is really slick. Shane knows his way around the studio. But I almost wonder if that works against them here. Maybe I just want them to ROCK more. The last time I saw them live they were so much more ROCKING.
“Get Lost” is the first track that doesn’t give me a toothache, and I like that. I think prefer The New Loud to be pissed off. They sound better when they’re bitchy musically and not just lyrically. “Don’t Dance” has this crazy rock opera aspect to it in the breakdowns. I like that. I was telling DJ that they reminded me of bis. He didn’t really buy into that until I made him Google “Eurodisco.”
Jeff: I really don’t enjoy Shane Olivo’s voice. It all starts with him, he’s the very first voice you hear (multitracked!) and I have a hard time listening to him. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but he sounds like he’s singing through his nose to me, and it’s distracting.
Obviously these guys are massively influenced by early-eighties synth-pop. New Order and Joy Division come up as influences on their bio page. The New Loud would do well to take a cue from Joy Division and pare all the bizzyness down a bit. They’ve got twenty sonic pounds (15 of which are not all that interesting, melodically) stuffed into five pound bags on every track and it’s just too much static. It sounds forced to me. There’s a point at about 2:12 in “Out Of Control” where this sound, like a cross between a screaming jet engine and the brake on a steam train comes in loud as holy hell for no apparent reason other than to break up the continuity of the song and convey some sense of “being out of control.” Annoying.
Too many electric drum fills. Actually, for me, one electronic drum fill is too much. The only good electric drum kit is one that’s outside yer house on curbside pickup day. I thought “Wrapped In Plastic” was such an apt song title for The New Loud, because this disc really sounds like it has a hermetic seal around it. It’s cold, which is fine… Front 242 was cold as hell, but there were monster hooks and beats to latch onto. Nothing hooked me on Measures Melt. “Better This Way” almost had me, but I prefer the real Atari Teenage Riot to the New Loud version.
Erika, I LOVE YO GABBA GABBA… but what I love about them is they are so much fun. This record isn’t fun. It all sounds so serious, and that combined with the cold electronic bizzyness just came up one big mess for me. I’d love to hear what they sound like loosened up and with some good humor.
Erika: See, I wasn’t even going to go as far back as citing Joy Division/New Order as obvious influences, because I just assume everyone in the world who’s in a band that utilizes a synth would do so in their own bio. Isn’t this a rule? “If your band has an electronic drum kit and/or electronic keys/samples, you must cite Joy Division or Kraftwerk.”
Jeff, I think they’re having fun. Or trying really hard to have fun. It’s just lost in the message, and we aren’t getting the full effect. Perhaps in your case, all the joy is buried under those pesky drum fills?
DJ: Well, I’m not sure what Six Finger Satellite or Lost Sounds would say to the notion that keyboard bands are required to cite Joy Division and Kraftwerk! I do see what Jeff’s saying, though–it’s hard to feel like a band’s having fun when the spontaneity has been sucked out by so much studio work. I think no matter where any of us land on The New Loud’s love/hate spectrum, we all agree that there’s a bit of studio overkill here. It’s the diametric opposite of the Steve Albini “band plays live with minimal overdubs” approach–not that I think that would have worked on Measures Melt, but perhaps a balance could have been struck between the two philosophies. The email blast promoting Friday’s show said that they’ve worked on this CD over “the last couple years”–that’s crazy! Sometimes there’s something to be said for “good enough”–imperfections and happy accidents are a part of what makes music human.
Still, I disagree with the notion that there’s a lack of hooks or monster beats. “Wrapped in Plastic” has an angelic chorus thanks to keyboardist Jessi Nakles, and the opening line of “Heartattack” sticks in my head for days on a routine basis. “Don’t Dance,” despite suffering from a condition I’ve dubbed “‘Let’s Get Rocked’ Syndrome” with its “I dance you/Do you dance me too” lyrics, is perfect radio-ready candy pop that delivers its bite by piling on enough sugar to eat through your enamel–not a bad thing when it comes with epic pogo-inducing breakdowns.
The band is at its best, I feel, when they throw in the noisy bits–the cybernetic boomerang action at the front of “Wrapped in Plastic,” the brief blast in the middle of “Don’t Dance,” and yes, even the siren scream in the middle of “Out of Control.” (And as a drummer, I’m gonna stand up for the electric/acoustic hybrid approach. esthetically, I’m on board.) But it is a controlled, very *deliberate* sort of noise; even when the songs get crazy, they’re very much under control. I think the songs on Measures Melt are solid, but like Jeff, I’d love to hear them loosened up, and like Erika said, more ROCKING. What would this album have sounded like had it been recorded in a span of months–even weeks–instead of years?