It’s testament to the anticipation built up by Abe Vigoda’s Skeleton that this EP is being treated as something far more significant than between-album space filler. There’s only 20 minutes of new music from the band here, and one of the tracks (“Wild Heart”) is a Stevie Nicks cover. There’s an entire essay to be written on the parallels between the sound of Abe Vigoda and Fleetwood Mac’s opulent masterpiece, Tusk, but this isn’t the time or place for that. Along with Women, Dirty Projectors and Wavves, Abe Vigoda is chipping away at our expectations of how a 21st century rock band should function.
Reviver doesn’t simply take the concepts laid down in Skeleton and give them a novel new twist. Instead, this is the sound of a completely different band, barely recognizable from the fumbling, itchy and trebly guitars that prickled through tracks like “Dead City/Waste Wilderness” from the preceding record. They’ve undergone a process of attrition, of paring down the Abe Vigoda sound until it represents something totally new. All the energy and ideas poured into their music have been un-learned and spewed out into a different musical space.
They’ve also lost some of the frenetic, youthful energy of Skeleton, and it’s no bad thing. The two tracks that bookend this EP (“Don’t Lie” and “The Reaper”) are certainly upbeat, but there’s a sadness to the Abe Vigoda sound that only emerged fitfully before. Just listen to the panicked guitar interludes on “Don’t Lie,” which offer a shrill counterpoint to the doleful ruminations of singer Michael Vidal, who has lowered his voice by a couple of octaves. The change suits him, especially when the band matches him with some Deerhunter-style ambient noise loops on “Endless Sleeper.”
“House” is the closest Abe Vigoda gets to replicating the peaky highs of Skeleton, but the sound is darker and denser than before. There’s a real heft to the guitars, and they clutter into wonderful disarray in the song’s final third, forming a perfect segue into “Endless Sleeper.” The combination of that song, and the following “Wild Heart,” displays Vidal’s newfound penchant for quiet introspection, providing a fantastic centerpiece to this EP, which contains more riveting ideas and modes of expression than most full-length albums.
There’s an undercurrent of unease, a feeling that something’s not quite right here, that runs through each song on Reviver. It’s in marked contrast to the band’s jovial presence in interviews and the fizzy juvenilia of Skeleton. But this new maturity suggests that Abe Vigoda is not a band that’s going to be easily pinned down. A few touchstones occasionally emerge; their fondness for beautiful disorientation is reminiscent of the Swell Maps’ A Trip to Marineville, and they share the cut-glass guitar aesthetic of early Wire. In fact, Abe Vigoda seems positively destined to take a similarly perverse career path to the likes of Colin Newman, Bruce Gilbert and Nikki Sudden, and it will be fascinating to see where they head next.