Monday, November 12, 2012

The Super Vacations - Heater Part II on Funny/ Not Funny Records

The Super Vacations are a real family affair. Two generations of music experience came together on their fuzzy, garage full length, Heater Part II on Funny/Not Funny Records. Rob and his brother Ryan make up The Vacations along with Mike Hill, Bladen Day and Ross Guthrie. Then Senior Ulsh brought his thirty years experience working as a professional sound engineer in Virginia Beach with a diverse group of artists such as Missy Elliott and Crystal Gayle into the studio with his sons. Having a serious recording engineer taking you and your brother to soccer practice must have had an immeasurable influence on the core of The Super Vacations’ dark psych sound that walks the line between a minimal new wave post punk and full blown mind altering psych. It’s an uncategorizable mix they are further refining on their third full length record.

“Faded Leather Jacket” the first track on the A-Side sets the rest of the tone for the album, pumping out their trademark rough, headbanging haze. Piles of rhythm guitar build under the electric reverb. Rob’s vocals are dark, delivering his pop Cramps sinister sound in a low baritone. It’s a chaotic kind of shoegaze that further buries itself under the packed dense layers, somehow finding room to expand in the chorus. The way they build catchy melodies out of this dizzying fog is similar to the way Mike Sniper from Blank Dogs was able to coax a damaged tune out of the finicky layers of imperfect electronics. Like this idea of a faded leather jacket, the best ones need to be broken in, worn all the time, like experimenting with this sound, there’s years of distilling this pop-psych into what finally ended up on vinyl.

Later tracks like “Ruby” and “Hexxing” aren’t afraid to push the limit of their frantic psych. Rob has combined his doubled up vocal with layers of higher register harmonies for thick sounding tracks with a surprising sinister edge. It’s not the loose paisley gateway psych from Strawberry Alarm Clock but instead something that might be pushing a conscious altering state completely over the edge. The percussion is heavy hitting, staring straight ahead, maintaining that driving beat without a lot of flourishes. The Vacations seem to be about the density of their sound, without distractions from the solid wall. It’s a punk-psych that inherently demands a certain speed and energy because everything is served up in under two minutes.

“El Ray” is one track that gets a little more relaxed, almost working towards a lush, new wave sound, dropping out for moments to breathe. It even draws on more of a late ‘90s sound from alternative bands, exploring the depths of rock guitar like Teenage Fanclub, with some of Yo La Tango’s effortless indie jangle.
Not afraid of extremes, they prod their melodic fog into straight feedback that shines through on “Above / Below”, which takes that high pitch loop right up a huge plateau of distortion. Rob’s lofty vocal emerges, as always, soaring above this fuzzy freight train without a trace of optimism. He gets away with that divide because in the end it’s so catchy and instantly likeable.
Saving the best for near last, “Kitchen Lites” drives home a slow strum guitar progression, bringing in a classic Modern English sound that all at once is an eerie shoegaze classic. Clearing room to breathe they drop the rhythm down to near molasses speed and end up with something you can nearly dance to, if you weren’t worried about something lurking just around the corner.

The Super Vacations have put together new versions of material from recent singles, creating a cohesive album of blinding bursts of psych, through combinations of unsettling haze and blistering speed. But to have your Dad work on your album is probably the best endorsement of all.

Pick this up from Funny/Not Funny Records.

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