Friday, July 20, 2012

The Torn ACLs - Real Risks

File Under: The Torn ACLs

The facts:
  1. a pop band from Seattle, Wa.
  2. There are four men in this band.
  3. They are - WILLIAM CREMIN
                            - MILES RANISAVLJEVIC
                            - JASON TABERT
                            - TIM MCCLANAHAN
  4. Real Risks is a 5 track EP, released on 7.13.12 on CreeperSpeak Records
  5. The Torn ACLs played as part of the final day of Goat's Head Fest, here in Portland, where they were nice enough to give me a copy of this disk, for review. 
The speculation: 
  1. They remind me of Death Cab For Cutie. A lot. They write sharp, clever pop songs with clear ringing guitars, heartfelt slightly whiney vocals and sweet, sweet harmonies. There is a tradition of emotional, bookish white boys making edgy pop music. It goes from The Smiths through Elvis Costello to Belle and Sebastien. We tattoo our hearts on our biceps; we take up smoking and never look back.
The thing many don't realize is there is a punk rock attitude to this polished prettiness. Its the rebellion of people who have decided to become intelligent and tasteful to smite their enemies. They rise above, and often times it is the record collections and the all ages hardcore shows that make sanity possible. Serge Gainsborough as Holy Grail. Jacques Brel serves as psychopomp to a better world; chic vintage furnishings and pretty women. Insomnia and intoxication. 

When i'm reviewing a record, the first question i ask is 'What is this object's reason for existing?' Why have its creators decided to make this tiny painting/sound collage and ship it out into the stratosphere? With Real Risks i get the sense that The Torn ACLs are attempting to perfect a formula. Its like they listened to The Photo Booth and Castaways and Cutouts a ton, and been like, "We can do that!" In many ways, they succeed. The vocals are rich and resonant, the guitars shimmer and sparkle and cut. The whole transmission seems intact. This is impressive, considering that they recorded the EP themselves, and had it mixed at Park Audio, in Nampa, ID. It is not easy to get a big studio sound yrself, trust me. The five tracks are over in a flash, and leave you hitting repeat. The kind of thing that'll stay in yr car for a month. A soundtrack to a season; maybe that's why they've made it. I can definitely say that this document is appropriate for the Northwestern summer; the creamy cerulean of the cityscape on the cover, the breezy guitars. A prime score for porch dwelling and skygazing. 

So here's the thing, i'm going to cut you off at the pass. A certain type of hipster will rain down scorn and derision on this 4 peace. They are emulating their inspirations; they are refining a formula. You have heard shit that sounds like the Torn ACLs before. Is there anything wrong with that? I've heard shit that sounds like The Beatles, before and since. I still like The Beatles. I still like people that sound like The Beatles. You've got to peer beneath the varnish, kids. Can't just react and respond. Watching The Torn ACLs play live, their sound was dialed in and they seemed to know what they were going for (even if the guitars were a touch too loud, a mistake that 90% of bands make, especially in small rooms.) On top of that, they were gracious human beings, stoked to be working their craft. Generous and optimistic. They got smooshed last minute into the Goat's Head fold, and they were totally cool and easy to work with.

They're pretty new, and exactly the kind of thing we like to promote here at J's Heaven. I look forward to when they start breaking new ground and record their Trout Mask Replica, although maybe they never will. Maybe it is impossible to say something new, at this juncture. I don't really care. I like music as much as i ever have, and i don't judge folks for sounding like other folks. A million points of bright white light.

If you were not one of the 15 or so people that got to see The Torn ACLs at Ella Street last Sunday, you get another shot, tonight at Backspace. All ages.

Real Risks is available for 3 bucks, digitally, and five dollars for the CD, which is really rather lovely and sounds great. 

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