Quiet Loudly here to play, nearly, from stunning album, truly
This site doesn’t usually cover out-of-town bands performing in Allston — which, in its hyperlocal sensibility, is also considered out of town — but Quiet Loudly deserves to be the exception.
The band, a Brooklyn trio with significant local roots, performs 9 p.m. Aug. 22 at Great Scott in a release party for “Soulgazer,” its first wide-release full-length album. The nine-track album is mind-blowing, unsettlingly adept at drawing attention from anything else the listener is trying to do, and the live show is certain to be powerful and mesmerizing; as stunning as the album is, this music is best heard live in the company of a crowd of others thoughtfully and worshipfully bobbing their heads.
The strange thing is that for a band identified with the shoegazer music genre — the stereotype is of introverted reflection encouraged by psychedelic drugs — this is a potently bluesy set of songs, reflecting guitarist and singer Max Goransson’s love of old soul music. They’re mostly elegiac, but rather than possessing an ethereal sense of indulgence, they sound like tunes for the working stiff. They sound like quiet despair in a townie bar after a day of manual labor. They sound like dusk is settling in, there aren’t too many people around, the jukebox is playing sad songs and you lock eyes with a good-looking stranger and suddenly your heart thumps violently with the possibilities of pleasure and escape.
The truth is, Goransson says, the band takes shoegazer only as a starting point because the purest product of the genre simply isn’t memorable enough. “I want our music to be spacey, but not distant. I want people to be able to connect with it on a more personal level, and I really want a lot of genuine passion to come through,” he says.
So most of the songs are love songs, but not about love achieved. You’ll hear the line “Baby, you just keep on burying me” in “Lift This Mountain,” and a song titled “You Never Call,” and in the track “I’ve Been a Miner for a Heart of Space,” the singer has realized “You’re not the answer.” When love does shine through, it’s shining through the muck. In “Church of Mud,” here’s how love looks:
The dirt’s gonna taint your white dress
and paint you with stains, but you look the best
We always knew how to shake off a mess
It’s not the end, it’s just a test
It’s an appropriately heavy guitar sound Quiet Loudly is shopping on “Soulgazer,” albeit with a ponderous and playful intelligence. It alludes to hard rock if not hair metal but thwarts it by turning into noise, shifts tempos and tones with a strangely satisfying inevitability and effortlessly works in seductive, radio-friendly hooks and licks just to sabotage them a moment later. Hell, a pop radio DJ could put “You Never Call” into a block with your average Chuck Mangione tune if Quiet Loudly weren’t so intent on precluding that with some Top 40-unseemly wailing and guitar work that blisters a little too much and goes on a little too long.
This signals a smartass disregard for pop culture, but Goransson says there’s a limit to it. “As much as I have no respect for the radio culture, I’m not always trying to sabotage our chances of appealing to a wider audience,” he says. “I’m certainly not thinking in terms of singles when I’m writing — but in the same regard, I’m not trying to consciously avoid them.” The frequent shifts in tempo, too, arise because Quiet Loudly wants to give listeners pop-plus, just as it offers shoegazer-plus. Unpredictability within the framework of a pop song, he says, is just “a cheap, but swell, trick to try to keep the listener with you every step of the way, but to throw in some surprises throughout that journey.”
Either way, the band’s smartassery is all in how it crafts songs; there’s no snark like you hear in Sonic Youth tunes and lyrics — in fact, Quiet Loudly vocals are all but submerged in the mix, and what comes through is plaintive rather than snarling.
“Soulgazer” is at its most fun when the guitars are joined by unexpected elements such as sax or trumpet, and the horns are promised at the Great Scott show to ensure it won’t be too heavy on the sludge. Live the band is also known to play an awesome cover of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” and its members should be in a giving mood Aug. 22: for Goransson and drummer and singer Sal Garro, in Boston for two years with the brilliant Pinocchio Syndrome, this is something of a homecoming.
“Soulgazer” is challenging, loud and certainly not for everyone. But it’s a sure thing Quiet Loudly live is going to be an industrial-strength good time. The show is also serves up 28 Degrees Taurus and the farewell shows of This Car Up and Cambridge’s Hot Box, all for only $9.
Great Scott is at 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, and can be reached by calling (860) 566-9014.