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Walrus - 20000 Leagues (Cover Artwork)

Walrus

Walrus: 20000 Leagues20000 Leagues (2007)
self-released

Reviewer Rating: 3.5


Contributed by: greg0rbgreg0rb
(others by this writer | submit your own)

My love affair with vintage synthesizers started with the Rentals. Their debut opened my eyes to a world of crazy new sounds at a time when the rock world was all about guitars, and I knew I had to seek out these sounds and learn to create them myself. From modern to classic, I bought up albums by b.
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My love affair with vintage synthesizers started with the Rentals. Their debut opened my eyes to a world of crazy new sounds at a time when the rock world was all about guitars, and I knew I had to seek out these sounds and learn to create them myself. From modern to classic, I bought up albums by bands across the musical spectrum that were using these sounds. From the Hippos, the Anniversary, Motion City Soundtrack, the Cars, Gary Numan, to the Who's `70s work, we're just scratching the surface. When I got a 1982 Roland Juno 60, I tried to create those crazy Moog Cookbook sounds and I learned to play every line of Return of the Rentals. God, I'm a huge dork. What am I getting at? I'm a sucker for synth bands, but these days I need to be more discriminating because in this century the synth first became trendy, then became overdone. Chicago group Walrus found me on MySpace and offered to send me their EP. Checking them out, I noticed the synth presence and had to accept their offer.

The group is not a synth showcase by any means. The focus is clearly the well-done male/female harmonies that share a sweet yet biting sonic quality with the Anniversary's first disc more so than the pure innocent tones of the Rentals. A great example of the young duo's talents would be the 6/8 monster ballad "Sweet City Irony." Aaron Goldschmidt sounds a lot like Justin Pierre -- just listen to when the tempo kicks up a notch in "Goodnight Moon" -- but with Kate Gruber blending with him so often it keeps it from being a problem. Their synth lines are of a Motion City Soundtrack style as well, and matches their similar uptempo power-pop/pop-punk sound, such as on the speedy opener "Oxygen" with its quick synth runs. Some of the synth lines are simple patterns typical of a Red Hot Valentines style, like on the intro of "The Rockies Have Stories," but Grube knows a thing or two about her instrument and shows it with some nice knob-twiddlin' later in the song's outro.

Walrus attempts to go harder with "Maus" and I can buy into that; in fact, I really like the pre-chorus synth line over that breakdown. But then I hear double-bass drumming and it's a bit much; it doesn't fit with the EP's style stated thus far (yet inexplicably it fits in "Oxygen"). A couple weak vocal moments of Goldschmidt's are exposed in the acoustic "Anthony" as well as an awkward shift from straight to swung rhythms in the chorus in this lone keyboard-less tune. There are also a few clunky rhythmic shifts in "Story of Two Convicts" when they switch from a triplet-based breakdown to driving backbeats, but most of that tune is successful, particularly the powerful ending, which again has more double-bass which I could take or leave here.

20000 Leagues is a solid debut effort from a group of fresh-faced youngsters. I for one like them even more because of the fun attitude that oozes from their MySpace page with their pointless and silly videos, cheeky promo photos and an album of pictures they took at their prom. Ah, to be young! I wish I was in a band that sounded this tight in high school, and I can relate to that feeling of your first serious band being your whole life. I hope the inevitable post-high school choices allow the band to stay together. While the sound of Walrus is fairly derivative of their influences, as far as I am concerned their influences are the right ones so in turn I enjoy their work. I'm sure they will be shifting and changing with releases to come and they have plenty of time to grow. But for now, if you are a sucker for synth-filled tunes or guy-girl harmonies, Walrus do 'em right.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
elephantdwarf (February 19, 2008)

playing bass and knowing how to play bass are two very different things, though. like radiohead once said, "anyone can play guitar" or something.

Scruffy (February 18, 2008)

Well, I didn't include bass in my rundown because everyone can play bass. Zing!

(Yes, I actually didn't mention bass hoping someone would provide a setup for that joke)

elephantdwarf (February 18, 2008)

like jamie lee curtiss? and i think i notice more girls playing bass than i see girls playing guitar. or drums especially.

Scruffy (February 18, 2008)

As stupid as I feel for becoming a part of this argument, did you ever wonder if there was another reason you tend to see girls playing keyboards in bands?
Ask all of your female friends if they play guitar. Drums? Bass? You might get a few. Ask them if they play piano. You'll get the most in that category. For some odd reason, more guys pick up guitar and more girls learn the piano.
What we need is a third sex so that someone can always learn the drums, so it's not so danged hard to find a drummer.

Ianw (February 18, 2008)

you guys ever notice how dudes are always playen' bass
seems almost sexist

elephantdwarf (February 17, 2008)

"if you're so uptight about this cliche, why don't you start a band to break it? this a solid pop punk album and i for one, think it's one of the catchiest releases coming out of Chicago in a long while."

i was in a pretty heavy band a while ago with a girl singer. her vocals sounded more brutal than most guys doing that sort of thing. it was rad.

greg0rb (February 17, 2008)

Yeah I'm so old. Well compared to the average age of punknews readers, I probably am pretty old. Ah well. Hey this is kinda fun-getting comments on a review unlike most of my small-name band reviews- it's like back in the anonymous days!
-Greg

KlashedKi (February 16, 2008)

Like an old man guarding some kids who remind him of something,"back in the day."

CarlosEBJ (February 16, 2008)

" just find it to be really cliche and kind of like bands go out of their way to find a girl keyboard player who can also do some singing parts. i also just find it weird that girls in bands are always keyboard players, it seems almost sexist. why don't you go out and find a girl drummer? but whatevs... way to get all defensive about your own band, man."

if you're so uptight about this cliche, why don't you start a band to break it? this a solid pop punk album and i for one, think it's one of the catchiest releases coming out of Chicago in a long while.

elephantdwarf (February 16, 2008)

i just find it to be really cliche and kind of like bands go out of their way to find a girl keyboard player who can also do some singing parts. i also just find it weird that girls in bands are always keyboard players, it seems almost sexist. why don't you go out and find a girl drummer? but whatevs... way to get all defensive about your own band, man.

aaronistime (February 16, 2008)

"why are the synth/keyboard/keys-of-any-sort players in every fucking band always the only girl? girls can play other things, i've seen it done! but i guess when you're trying to fit the cliche..."-elephantdwarf

what does it matter that the girl in this band or in any band for the most part plays the keys, that has nothing to do with the music that they produce. If the girl was a bass or lead guitar player it wouldn't change their sound at all, they'd be the same band. she plays the keyboard because she's good at playing the keyboarrd, not because it may be "cool" to have a female keyboard player.

greg0rb (February 16, 2008)

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Prick. Haha yeah though I went to college from 99-03 and love Modest Mouse... you're not making fun cuz that is the truth... I wouldn't have it any other way, baby!
-Greg

givemeamuseumandillfillit (February 16, 2008)

Oh wait, i'm sorry, i just clicked your profile...

...i feel like i picked on a retarded kid or something, i'm sorry.

givemeamuseumandillfillit (February 16, 2008)

I used to really like your reviews but holy shit.
You buy a juno-60 and play rentals monolines and call yourself a dork?

I'd call you a college dude who probably likes Modest Mouse a lot.

Can a series of namedroppings seriously scream "I WENT TO COLLEGE IN THE EARLY 00's" more than that?!

blanktapesemptybottles (February 15, 2008)

yeah I was just excited when I heard Rentals and then was let down, sorry if I offended you just make better comparisons haha

greg0rb (February 15, 2008)

Re-read the 2nd paragraph you shall notice that I say they are more like the Anniversary and Motion City Soundtrack. Yeah not much like the Rentals other than the wide use of synths, I just like talking about the Rentals a lot.
-Greg

elephantdwarf (February 15, 2008)

why are the synth/keyboard/keys-of-any-sort players in every fucking band always the only girl? girls can play other things, i've seen it done! but i guess when you're trying to fit the cliche...

blanktapesemptybottles (February 15, 2008)

you forgot to mention the generic emo sound that blasts you in the face the first second you go to their myspace... seriously don't compare them to the rentals so much, because clearly they're not.

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