No matter what the Mars Volta tries to tell you, pretension is the death of rock ‘n’ roll. Whether it’s an overabundance of field recordings or meandering lyrics, it’s hard to have a good time listening to pseudo-intellectuals with guitars. To the contrary, the right record can transform the most mundane situation into a party. Justamustache, the second proper full-length from Detroit’s Thunderbirds Are Now!, is one of those records.
Justamustache is ten tracks of good times. With a mindset similar to Pretty Girls Make Graves’ Good Health, the album seamlessly combines guitar-driven power-pop with rhythmic post-punk. The result is amazingly catchy, original and unassuming. The quartet’s melodies are based around frantic guitar interplay that is complemented by synths. The bass and drums, credited to Martin Smith and Mike Durgan, are equally frenetic and intense. Sequenced drums are used liberally throughout the album, adding unnecessary but welcome texture. The vocals, provided mainly by guitarist Ryan Allen and keyboardist Scott Allen, float perfectly between passion and melody.
A main key to the album’s success is the band’s understanding of variety. “Better Safe Than Safari” and “Harpoons of Love” use guitar interplay to draw the listener in. “Bodies Adjust,” the album’s most restrained song, focuses mainly on synths and electronic drums until its climax. “This World is Made of Paper” showcases each instrument, flowing through movements of intense bass work, cowbell-driven drums and jittery synths.
Obviously, a rock ‘n’ roll record called Justamustache is an unlikely contender for album of the year. Nonetheless, it is a great example of the amazing creativity that can come from five friends whose ultimate goal is to have fun. Musically impressive and totally rad, Justamustache is a perfect record to crank up loud while you take it easy for a while.