Wednesday, September 21, 2011
[pitchfork.com] Maybe the best thing about Sports, last year's bruising debut from San Francisco noise-poppers Weekend, was simply how refreshing it sounded. While so many other lo-fi acts were still messing around with balmy haze and Nuggets jangle, these guys took the sound down darker, more aggressive paths. The album's marriage of squall and melody wasn't really anything new, but just by channeling a different set of influences-- post-punk, shoegaze, the Jesus and Mary Chain-- Weekend's music felt so much more visceral than their peers'. At the same time, Sports' charm boiled down to one idea executed very well, and it wouldn't be unreasonable to worry if they had the depth to do that again.
So it's encouraging to hear Weekend making significant alterations to their formula on the Red EP. Offered as a teaser for an as-yet-untitled, upcoming LP, Red finds the band operating in a much cleaner, dreamier mode and mostly pulling it off. In addition to cutting back on the background screech that dominated Sports and drawing out more melody, the big difference is how the band treats frontman Shaun Durkan's voice. Previously a croaky drone used as an accent, Durkan's vox is richer, recorded higher in the mix, and able to carry a song on its own.
The best place to hear Weekend's more direct approach is on standout "Hazel", a killer shoegaze-pop number that has a lot in common with swirling 1990s classics like Catherine Wheel's "Black Metallic". Set over an insistent, post-punk drumbeat and throbbing bass, the track becomes nicely un-tethered, letting guitars spin in and out of focus. There's great dark/light tension between its tight construction and looser elements, and Durkan's vocal strings it all together with a warm pop hook. The band hits similar high notes on "Sweet Sixteen" and "The One You Want". The cool thing about these songs is that while they aren't as threatening as some of the Sports stuff, they're no less dark-- it's just a more pensive and mysterious kind of noir.
Red is only five tracks long, and two of the cuts-- "Your Own Nothing" and the weirdly titled "Golfers"-- are a little slight, so there's only so much you can take away from it. But it's an important release for Weekend, one of those classic transitional EPs-- Deerhunter's Rainwater Cassette Exchange and Abe Vigoda's Reviver spring to mind as recent examples-- where a band takes stock of its strengths and starts to pivot in a new direction. Maybe even more important is that it shows this band as much more agile and nuanced than some previously thought, able to make noise one part of its attack instead of the primary focus.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 6:48 PM