In the past few years, two-person bands have sprung up in every facet of American indie music. Although not genre-specific, it seems the stereotype is that any two-person band is going to be a wash of chaotic noise a la Lightning Bolt or Hella. It is refreshing, then, to learn not only that Vaz pre-dates most of today's hyped bands, but that they are also unique: Without an obvious shtick, Vaz has meaningful, personal songs and refreshingly pop-infected melodies.
Although the band has been kicking around since 1997, their long-awaited GSL debut was delayed for almost two years. Finally surfacing in late 2003, Dying to Meet You contains fourteen heavy guitar and drum anthems. The songs are hammered out in short bursts of noise and melody, sounding as if longer songs were whittled down to only their most essential elements.
There are hints of grunge, theatrical Goth-rock, and post-hardcore, which brought them notoriety in the early-'90s Minneapolis-based band Hammerhead. Guitarist and vocalist Paul Erickson (performing here as Apollo Liftoff) fills his role competently -- his powerful and dirty riffs are enough to hold the songs together, and a bass is not missed. Deft Garlands's (as Dionysius Powerdown) pummeling and unrelenting rhythmic assault on his kit begs for an accompanying visual: I can only imagine a blurry storm of limbs flailing and cymbals shuddering under all that kit abuse. Erickson's vocals vary little between songs, and I hate to say that he sounds a bit like one of those Ian Curtis rip-offs that seem to be leading every band these days.
At fourteen songs, Dying to Meet You ends up being too long for a cohesive album, but there are plenty of standout songs, most notably opener "They've Won," the lo-fi dirge of "White Wall," and the comical "Give us the Creeps" -- in some other world this song could be a hit. And that goes for the band as a whole: In the grander scheme of music, Vaz sounds like a weird indie band. But in the world of two-person noise-rock bands, they are perhaps the most melodic and song-oriented.
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