For all intents and purposes, the garage-rock explosion is over. Gone are the days of major labels signing a band because its name begins with “the” and ends with an “s.” The fuzzy Buddy Holly sound is no longer cutting it, and we’re back to where we were five years ago, before all this doting on The Plurals, when a band needed to rely on talent to get noticed. The Willowz are no strangers to hype, but thankfully they’re just as familiar with talent.
Most of the band’s four members only recently became old enough to legally purchase whiskey, which makes it all the more impressive that they have what it takes to go toe to toe with some of the biggest hype pushers in the business. It also helps to have acclaimed director Michel Gondry license a song for the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack and independently finance a video for “Meet Your Demise” (off the band’s 2004 eponymous debut) before a record label even blinked in their direction. But on Talk In Circles, the band’s third full-length, the members of the Willowz had the time and patience to step away from the hubbub and prove their worthiness.
On the heals of Are Coming, the band’s Sympathy for the Record Industry premiere (released in February), the Anaheim, California four-piece finds strength in melodies and guitar hooks on Talk In Circles. With each song focusing on simple songwriting, guitar-driven rhythms and male/female melodies, the band has found its recipe. Because of their youth and thirst for mixing the punk sounds of the seventies with the garage sounds of the sixties, it’s all too easy to compare the Willowz to the Kings of Leon. But unlike the Followill family, the members of the Willowz seem to have slept, eaten and guzzled rock ‘n’ roll since birth. Their simple rock set-up is infectious, and their attitude is equally as rambunctious, setting them far apart from otherwise acceptable Kings of Leon comparisons.
Talk in Circles has been called the Willowz’s Pet Sounds. That comparison, though overly flattering to the Willowz, seems fitting because of the album’s breadth of styles. On “We Live on Your Street,” singer/guitarist Richie James Follin has moments of pure punk explosions, but he counterbalances the album with the more mellow grooves of “Making Certain” and by employing bass player Jessica Reynoza’s vocals on “Blind Story.”
The hype tornado encircling the Willowz claims the band is following in the footsteps of former Sympathy band the White Stripes. And it’s evident that Follin and crew has noted that putting together a collection of simple songs ranging from punk to garage to acoustic mumblings has been one key to the Stripes success. Talk in Circles‘ songwriting and production is spot on, as is the attitude, and for this they should be remembered long after yesterday’s trash hits the dumps.