(Self-released, CD, digital download)
With their latest EP, Kiss My Grits, Burlington’s Villanelles aimed to get the rock out, as bassist Evan Borden told Seven Days last month. Makes sense, too. Who wouldn’t like a break after an eponymous debut that channeled comparatively mellow styles ranging from psychedelic art rock to shimmering pop?
Here they simply rock, delivering something like pop-punk for grown-ups. Or rather, pop-punk for twentysomethings weaned on Blink 182 and Green Day who have outgrown those bands but still haven’t grown up, per se. Villanelles still worry about most of the same things they presumably did when they were 16 — mainly, girl troubles — but now their sound is peppered with the confusion of mid-twenties, postcollege life. It comes out in the oft-nervous energy that bounces through their music. Rather than fret over paltry details such as The Future, however, they do the right thing: cover themselves in grits and kick out the jams.
“Cereal Killer Whale” opens the disc like a more vicious version of “Summertime Hit,” the lead cut from the band’s debut. The hook at the chorus beckons you to sing it for days when lead man Tristan Baribeau coos, “She ate me for breakfast.” The rollicking riff comes on like the Sonics all hopped up on energy drinks. Great hooks are quickly becoming this band’s stock-in-trade, and Baribeau can’t help but “ooh-ah” himself to high hallelujah a few times on this one. It’s hardly the last time.
Villanelles keep that rambunctious mood through the next two songs. Keyboardist Zane Gundersen gets ample time to pound his keys on “See You at Eight.” “Kiss My Grits” offers a jerky little riff and attempts to pound it into your brain in a white-boy boogie — and a good one at that.
“Parking Lot” presents a brief change of pace with ballad-ish chord picking at the start. For a moment, the boys sound a bit serious. Then they really — like, really — rock out. Halfway through the song Baribeau unleashes one honey of a power riff while drummer Seth Gundersen lays it heavy on the crash cymbal. It was this riff that had me playing the song over and over again, and not just because I was reviewing the album.
Admittedly, Kiss My Grits isn’t Villanelles’ most memorable stuff, but it’s not supposed to be. Rather, it sounds exactly like what it is: a short and sweet interlude between their proper debut and sophomore outing. It’s a pleasure to hear the band become newfangled advocates for rock. They, like many others, know it will never steer you wrong.
Villanelles play Manhattan Pizza & Pub in Burlington this Saturday, May 21, with Furiosity and Hello Shark.