It’s taken a little bit of time for news about the short-lived Syracuse band, Sarongs, to cross the country, but their post-punk sounds have now seeped in here at Caliper. In September, the now-defunct act (which formed in fall 2010 and broke up this spring) released a self-titled 7-track tape via Prison Art that proves quality always trumps quantity: the Sarongs debut grabs you, shakes you around, smashes you into a wall, then expects you to beg for more.
The album kicks off with “Pedestrian,” which drifts from fuzzed-out “evil surf punk” to piercing chaotic garage rock. “North Face” is all swagger and growl and fierce percussion courtesy of Wes Garlock, with singer Lindsey Leonard (who at times brings to mind the Ettes’ Coco Hames) breaking out into a sing-songy voice to ask, “Do you love me, do you really love me?” (Note: it’s not a love song when vomiting sounds are involved).
It’s unfortunate Sarongs broke up prior to the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement in their home state – they could provide some seriously defiant, kick-ass rallying songs. For example, “Mineral” is an art rock commentary on the War in Afghanistan, and “Pixel” accuses “you bastard child of the glitzy corporate / fermenting my sour grapes to celebrate / spitting and slurring / with that / trashy postmodern inflection.”
With so many shifts in tempo and genre (and even Lindsey’s vocal range), the album can be a challenging first listen. This is not background noise for a hipster coffeehouse, it’s not totally danceable, nor is it a 100 percent “I’m-angry-and-need-to-rage” banger. However, guitarist Andrew Nerviano’s unconventional riffs, combined with the rest of the band’s frenetic energy, should appeal to fans of math-rock/post-punk/psychobilly who like a side of sharp, smart lyrics.
The album concludes with a slow-burning cover of Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses,” made infamously disturbing by its use in Silence of the Lambs as Buffalo Bill dances in front of the camera. Like that scene, Sarongs seems to be saying: “You know you can’t take your eyes off of us, even though you want to … you’re just as twisted as us, aren’t you?”
In Sarongs’ brief stint, they’d garnered decent buzz in Syracuse for their wild live shows. However, Lindsey recently moved out to L.A., so West Coasters like myself can only hope that she finds a new project to help shake up the local punk scene, like Sarongs had started to in New York.