Garage rock is back so warn the neighbors, get yr parents out of the house, and let 'er rip. With bands such as the Hives and the White Stripes flooding the airwaves it's time for the bandwagon to pick up passengers of hopefuls and tour the nation, snatching up all the slop-rockers out there who are ready for the big time. Enter Tora! Tora! Torrance! from Minneapolis, MN, a band of fairly talented musicians whose debut album Get Into It takes one back to the rehearsal spaces of days past, complete with carpet on the concrete, junk lining the walls and hours to play for the sake of playing. Not to imply that !TTT! is a knock-off ready to coattail their way to fame, but now's the time for bands of this genre to make an attempt at success for the style is getting popular on the market. With that said, this record could not have been released at a better time, so let's get on the bus!
Slop rock is an aesthetic that milks the moment, interested only in pleasing its musicians with songs that range from loud and quick to long, slow and reflective. The name of the game isn't "songwriting" or technical exploration but rather emotional expression through whatever sounds cool, and !TTT! made me get nostalgic for my slop rock past by invoking the spirit of the late 80's, early 90's indie scene. This record comes across as the product of having nothing to do but play all day with good friends, and the result is a record that sucks the listener in with rock and roll that sneaks up with plenty of surprises and explosive moments. Unfortunately Nick Kroenigs (vocals) isn't nearly as charismatic as the rest of the band (Jason Peterson - guitar, Jon Tester - guitar, Ryan Wahlberg - bass, Jesse Panzer - drums), and the quality of his voice is less than pleasing. Think Jack White without a range while extreme pressure is being applied to his genitals and you'll get a sense of what Kroenigs' pinched, nasal, whine of a voice sounds like. Kroenigs is the weakest member of !TTT!, and being the frontman and the "voice" of the band, it's easy to discredit the music on this record which is quite excellent.
The only price one pays when turning to garage rock is suffering through some pretentious moments both lyrically and musically. Tora! Tora! Torrance! is guilty of this but one has to expect it from this type of band, it's inevitable, for better or worse. Musically they manage to steer clear, save for songs like "Save the Alamo", the outro of "The Sweet Sweet" and "Upstairs Bedroom at a Party". Lyrically, well, not my favorite album lyrics of the year. "Killer Cut the Phone Line" opens the record and lets the listener know exactly what one's in for with, "I'm sorry for being so metaphorical baby/You know why I cry at night/Is my church on fire?" as the bridge. And the fact that money was spent recording the filler song "Oh Frankie, We Are All Architects" is nauseating in a Jim Morrison's book of poetry kinda way. The lyrics on this album are so obscure that to figure out what songs are about is not a task worth taking. In "Miles Well", a song about a relationship (of what kind is unclear) with lyrics such as, "Deep down I've know and I know you've known, too/I want to live forever in Paradise with you." But don't get me wrong, obscure, pretentious lyrics full of bad metaphors is just part of the slop rock style. "Miles Well" as well as "Johnny Got His Crush" are two of the highlights of the album, building towards their climaxes so secretly that you don't notice 'til it rocks you right between the eyes.
This is a very solid debut record musically, but the singer in a band gives a band its personality, and Kroenigs doesn't deliver a very appealing fingerprint for Tora! Tora! Torrance!. For a band that has played musical chairs with several variations of its lineup since the band's conception (Sam Johnson replaced Jason Peterson and Travis Even replaced Ryan Wahlberg after this record was finished), it's amazing to me that they haven't tried a different singer because I think it would be in their musical and professional interests to do so. All in all, however, if you need a good rockin' then it is very easy to Get Into It with Tora! Tora! Torrance!.