Oftentimes there’s a pretty likable aspect about sounding like someone else. The only way to create something new is to use parts of things that we know from others, and learn from those whom we have come to know and appreciate. These attributes allow an audience to feel something that they’ve felt before. Something they can digest that they know they’ve digested before and make those necessary connections in order to make the most sense out of what’s happening. Finding the intercepting points between something of the past and something they are hearing for the first time, that’s something that makes sense to me at least.
So here I am, attempting to figure out a way to approach a record like Electric Bitters’ Memoirs of a Dysfunctional Relationship. What this band has going acts as a decent platform for creating something new, while maintaining a familiar sound — it allows for some wiggle room to experiment in your own way. Influences determine the base, but bands should explore and experiment instead of replicating. Power riffs, chugging, screaching tones — the whole bit. It’s all here, but at the same time, I get a strange feeling that there’s something missing.
“It’s so overload / every note of it is” is a lyric that makes its way through “Making Adjustments” as I make my way through the record, and it totally makes sense. Everything about this record is overloaded, and there hasn’t always been a distinct formula for loading up on your favorite parts of those records you are inspired by. Parts just start to compile and form into something. Electric Bitters have loaded up on many things — some good, some bad, but they are loading up on something. There’s substance here, and a lot of it at most points.
Take a track like “Memoirs,” the first single they released. There are portions of that track where I’m pretty blown away, reminding me of some of the best bridges a band like Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth could come up with. The next track, “Persistence of Memory,” has a splash of Pixies to it, plus some really awesome riffs towards the end that are reminiscent of Pavement’s infamous riff on “Grounded” (around 1:30 of that video), which still stands as one of the best things that band has ever done. Songs like that by Electric Bitters make me feel those types of feelings that I felt when listening to these other artists. It’s almost nostalgic.
Memoirs is heavily influenced (without shame) by those rock heroes like Metallica and Smashing, which is great to see, honestly. Those tracks that just go all out with no avail are pretty admirable, especially when you can pull off a track like “Kallisti.” Lyrics like “I would rip my eyes out if it would stop me from seeing you / rip my heart out if it would stop me caring for you,” aren’t the best I’ve ever heard, but they pull it off while still pummelling riffs that bring some of those great Hum riffs to mind.
Other highlights have to come with the wah-wah guitar moments of emo-driven “Stomping Spiders,” or the afformentioned “Making Adjustments” — that twanged out electric guitar that any Smashing Pumkins fan would recognize in the latter track, plus the excellent string of breakdowns post-three minute mark. But there are some points on the tracks toward the end of the record where enough is really enough, for example in the aptly titled “How Much Is Too Much.” That song extends a few minutes longer than it probably should. However, like I said before, even the smallest parts of Memoirs are the most satisfying, such as the high-hat fill in “To Hell With It.” Those are some of the moments that I appreciated the most — attention to detail.
Overall, while, yes, I’ve drawn similarities to other artists, that’s always going to happen. Someone sounds like someone else all the time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What I see with Memoirs is a core sound that displays the best of a genre that some loathe and others love endlessly, but that all find themselves going back and listening to over again. It’s like listening to Pearl Jam’s Ten, even after you’re so sick of hearing “Even Flow” for the 5,000th time in your life: you still remember what it felt like when you first heard it.