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Weekends: Strange Cultures

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Weekends

Strange Cultures

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The thing about lo-fi pop/rock—and whatever the current iteration of it is currently being called: Shitchill? Wavegaze? Two other random words put together?—is that it’s less the low that matters than the fidelity. Anybody can make a recording sound like superficial ass-hattery; it’s a loyalty to some musical idea that makes the thing work. And local duo Weekends knows exactly what it’s doing with its approach to lo-fi pop: find abstract melodies in the sheets of noise that result from guitar and drums repetitively clashing against each other.

Guitarist/vocalist/drummer Brendan Sullivan and guitarist/drummer Adam Lempel’s new Strange Cultures—its second LP proper after two EPs and a self-titled 2009 debut—spotlights a band gaining a much better command of what it does well: fold big rock moments into simple tunes you can hum. It’s there in the super-fuzzed guitar sheen powering lead track “Roommate,” the almost butt-rock riff dancing with a swinging percussive shimmy in “Bourgie Nights,” and the stomping chords punching the air that help make “Home Alone” such a cheeky version of a big-hall anthem. In more conventional brains, these songs’ blueprints get extrapolated into, say, boilerplate White Stripes crowd pleasing. Weekends sounds more content to keep that outright commercial streak in insolent check, and Strange captures the duo honing its grandiose ambitions out of such juxtapositions: It recalls the ramshackle organization that gave the Tall Dwarfs their abstruse appeal without aspiring to such pop perfection on the end product, the sprawl of the Refrigerators after a torrid love affair with a distortion pedal, the Yips aiming for an arena-rock presence to make sure the cheap seats can feel it.

It’s the full-bodied oomph that makes Strange a little beguiling. The best tracks here feel the most unlike the giddy songwriting that shaped the duo’s 2009 debut. The approach has become something less one-dimensional and more complex, and it’s particularly ear-grabbing in the head-jerking guitar line and awkward pound pushing “Team Wolf” into an offhand melody and the absolutely disjointed guitar and drums coming together to sketch “Psychedelic Mice” into a curious gem. Restless energy has always been a big part of Weekends’ appeal; the way it makes a patina of chaos flower into rousing moments on these two tracks suggests Sullivan and Lempel have found new ways to make two people’s racket take over eardrums.

Weekends plays a CD release show at Floristree April 16 with White Fang. For more information visit weekendsbaltimore.tumblr.com.

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