ARKLIGHT “Decadence and Paranoids” C40 (Faux-Pas Recordings)

In another time, pioneers of lo-fi Tascam recording methods wowed their friends with their brilliant navigation of fidelity. Luminaries such as Sebadoh and Guided By Voices are always mentioned in sentences following those containing the phrase “pioneers of lo-fi Tascam recording methods,” and this review is not going to buck that trend in any way. Lou and Bob are the poster children for utilizing what they had to achieve the greatest possible ends. And while I’m sure their friends, upon hearing a freshly dubbed Maxell pump out their basement anthems, were super stoked enough to elevate them to local god status (Akron, Ohio, and Amherst, Massachusetts, aren’t fooling anyone – small ponds!), Lou and Bob had bigger ambitions, and they became bona fide, groupie-embracing rock stars. As the prophecies foretold.

Arklight clearly hopes to follow in their forebears footsteps, and they’ve at least got the greasy lo-fi chops to attempt to take down the defending champs. (As usual, I visualize the struggle for audience reception as a fistfight to the death, in front of cheering crowds thirsty for blood. Is that just me?) A guitar/drum/vocal trio from NYC (using very few, if any, overdubs), Arklight wallow in the tape hiss inherent in the genre and embrace it as part of their sound. And, as one would expect given those constraints, it pretty much works out OK for the band.

Decadence and Paranoids doesn’t mess around – it gets in, it gets out, it does stuff in the middle, and it excels at it. It features fourteen short songs, all of which hover in a mid-tempo rock structure. Whoever sings – Danny Kolm, Gregory Kolm, or Max Kostaras – sounds like Lou Reed, another point of success for your average lo-fi rocker. It gets a little tedious by the end – there’s not a ton of variation here – but tracks like “Rosewood,” “Embryo,” and “Time Travellers” stand out as groovy signposts. (Kolm/Kolm/Kostaras really sounds like Reed on the latter.) If I lived in New York, I’d check out Arklight at some dingy venue. I bet they really blast PA systems to smithereens.

…I just wouldn’t expect the second coming of GBV here or anything. Temper those expectations!

--Ryan Masteller