Sound: For those who have hoped that someone in the musical world would revive the crunchy, grunge-enhanced sound of the 1990's, Australia's Violent Soho will be a welcome throwback. With a musical style that could fit in easily with the likes of The Vines and Blur (to name just a few), the quartet delivers consistently interesting melodies that are always outlined by a good dose of crunchy distortion. At times it does feel like they are deriving inspiration directly from some of those 90's staples, but in the end Violent Soho's self-titled CD (their second full-length album and first release on Ecstatic Peace! Records) is still jam-packed with memorable tracks.
One of the most appealing aspects to Violent Soho is the band's ability to convey raw, unbridled emotion via vocalist Luke Boerdam. When the high-gain guitars are mixed with Boerdam's piercing, intermittent screams, it's a powerful combination that usually carries the song. It all starts off with Here Be Dragons, which features a slightly dark, ominous vibe that is aided by the oft-used guitar distortion. The verses are a bit more stripped-down and low-key like many of The Vines' arrangements, but that allows for a huge explosion of sound the minute the chorus begins.
Quirkiness is another strong point for Violent Soho, whether it's the wry delivery heard in Jesus Stole My Girlfriend or the hate-fueled vocals in Muscle Junkie. Boerdam demands your attention with every line he utters, and the entire rhythm section follows suit. My Generation not to be confused with The Who classic of the same title is one of the more basic song constructions on the CD, with power chords taking the center stage. While it's certainly not the most creative songwriting, you can still hear My Generation being accessible enough to get plenty of airplay.
The bulk of the tracklist rarely diverges from a rock-driven sound, but Violent Soho surprises by including the ballad Outsider. Boerdam's usual screams are replaced with a clean, melodic delivery, and the band never feels the need to build up to the always-predictable big rock crescendo. Instead, the entire arrangement is as restrained as they come, with only an acoustic guitar and a subtle string section adding texture to the track. Outsider is not necessarily the standout song on the CD, but it does add a much-needed break in the nonstop energy you receive with the other selections. // 8
Lyrics: Much like the in-your-face nature of Boerdam's vocal delivery, the lyrics tend to be rather blunt as well. The best example arrives in the cynical content of Muscle Junkie (You thought the world owed you a smile; Your parents cheer, your dad was proud; Mondays will not apply to you; F--k you, f--k you, I won't trust you). In the track Jesus Stole My Girlfriend the lyrics don't always live up to the humorous title, (I thought youre my friend; Ill guess again; I look to the clouds God gives me a frown), but the power behind Boerdam's delivery makes you a believer anyway. // 7
Overall Impression: There is nothing groundbreaking in terms of the style of Violent Soho, but the self-titled CD is still an enjoyable listen. Sure, there are moments sections might sound a bit like Violent Femmes (Love Is A Heavy Word) or The Vines (My Generation, Here Be Dragons), but execution is key in this particular case. Violent Soho has perfected the post-grunge sound and throws in enough fresh moments (the whining guitar in Slippery Tongue is an attention-getter) that it's actually refreshing to hear the vintage 90's find their way into 2010. // 8