Rock ‘n’ roll hoochie coo. Someone lit The Goslings’ fuse. The firecracker of inspiration must’ve burst all over these crazies, because smoke is steaming from my speakers. The architects behind last year’s late entry for album of the year, Between the Dead, one-up themselves with Grandeur of Hair, one of the best rock albums of any year.
Helmed by the husband and wife duo of Leslie and Max Soren, The Goslings are a toxic array of passion, tradition, and experimentation. Over the course of one full-length album and three EPs, the band has drawn comparisons to Royal Trux, Sunn 0))), and The Melvins. Certainly, one can hear echoes of Twin Infinitives’ reverb-caked bizarro rock and the power chord, zen-drone ruminations of The Melvins and Sunn 0))). But if the Goslings prove anything with Grandeur of Hair, it’s that they encapsulate and tweak a larger tract of canonical art-rock territory.
An hour-long, eight-track behemoth, the album is a virtual trip through rock history. One could trace the band’s sound, a heady mix of shoegaze, psychedelica, drone, and noise, to a number of sources throughout the lineage of rock. However, these sources are not maliciously plagiarized. The band instead subconsciously absorbs the best sounds and aesthetics from post-White Light/White Heat rock and adjusts appropriately. Guitarist Max turns the dusty distortion waves found in “Sister Ray” up a notch until they bleed into each other upon crash and reform. Leslie’s earthly vocals bring to mind Christina Carter, but with the forked tongue of Lydia Lunch. At times, she delivers her vocals in snide howl and her voice deepens and resembles an amalgam of Marc Bolan and Tom Verlaine. The layers of guitars and screeches that pepper each song bury the vocals, creating a lo-fi version of My Bloody Valentine’s ethereal trance. One can even hear a bit of dub in the playful fuzz-crunk breakdown of “Croatan.” Best of all, the band adopts the spirit that saves rock from the occasional pits of sameness and mediocrity -- that of conceptual challenges and fresh sounds.
Of course, no great record is complete without invigorating original sounds, and the band conjures an abundance of blissful moments within their sonic textures. With “Own a Car”’s industrial percussion whirlwind outburst, the band invites you to a warm, yet restless attack of dense, dark, noisy psychedelia. As Max cranks out a guitar apex that sounds like a fog horn, Leslie wails like a gypsy with a haunting wordless reprise. The resulting cohesion has a dark passion that is simply unequivocal in modern music. It is at once brutal and beautiful, murky and concise, Satanic yet hopeful. Elsewhere, vocals scatter over a chopped drone line and minimal cymbal crashes in “Overnight,” creating the ultimate space for creepy sentiment. Never one to back down from a bad trip, the band uses the space to spurt out lines like, “I’m rising out the window” in a junkie slur, each vocal accentuation creating rhythms where the instruments leave a void. It's the moments of sonic glory -- be they ungodly cooing, droning white noise, horror movie-aping keyboard lines buried underneath layers of grime or warped guitar lines -- that make this album a spectacle to behold.