It’s unfortunate that it’s impossible to separate “Aloha, the band” from “Aloha, the band with the vibraphone,” because they also happen to play some great music. Their 2002 release on Polyvinyl, Sugar, was a dense wave of funky time signatures and a consuming torrent of instruments all fighting for your ears. On Here Comes Everybody, Aloha’s third full-length for Polyvinyl, they get about as minimal as a jazzy prog-rock band can get, and for the most part it’s an interesting choice. There are times where the band sounds a bit uptight, but Here Comes Everybody contains some of the most memorable songs Aloha has ever written.
Things start off in Sugar mode with the relentless kick drums and crashing cymbals of “All the Wars.” But things get stripped down to some clacking percussion and a guitar after about two minutes, and vocalist Tony Cavallario shows off his magnificent pipes and his cryptic and poetic lyrics — and there’s no vibraphone to be found. The acoustic guitars that guide “You’ve Escaped” play well with the pianos and the hi-hats, creating an ominous tune that elicits chills when Cavallario sings, “Do you see in the corner of your eye/ That I’m standing by your side.” It’s the best of the bunch, and it epitomizes the band’s success in working with shorter, more confined songs, showcasing one instrument at a time instead of the blazing cacophony of their past work.
But there are moments when that format seems to stifle the music. “Water Your Hands” hints toward the freeform sound that characterized their earlier records, but here, they’ve substituted repetition for experimentation, almost as if they were afraid to really let it rip. It’s different, but it’s not interesting enough to propel an entire song. Some songs are dreamy and moody but never really go anywhere, forcing Aloha toward a mushy middle ground that doesn’t suit them.
But this is an album that puts Aloha in a great situation. They’ve done the flowing noise, and now they’ve made some controlled tracks. They aren’t exactly pop structures — songs like the thumping “Boys in the Bathtub” have way too many arrangements to be your everyday pop songs — but Aloha has clearly explored new ground here. Like any exploration, there are some dead ends, but they’ve proven they’ll take risks when necessary. If they can find a way to reconcile their pathways, greatness could be within their grasp.