Trophy Wives - Old Scratch (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Trophy Wives

Old Scratch (2011)

Latest Flame

I can commend anyone who tries to go back and resurrect music from a critically maligned genre, much like George Costanza picking the eclair out of the garbage and eating it. The Costanza in this case is Trophy Wives and the eclair is "grunge." Just reading that I bet you cringed, right? But people like to play some revisionist history and forget that before Silverchair and their ilk tried robbing Kurt Cobain's freshly rotting corpse for all it was worth, there were honest bands championing the "Seattle sound." The Seattle sound is in quotations there because there was actually a wide range of style in what came to be known as a particular sound. With a healthy pedigree from playing in many of Louisville's most notable punk/hardcore bands like Elliott, Coliseum and Breather Resist, you'd expect more of a studied exploration of musical history than what ends up encompassing Old Scratch.

The opening track "Taste of Medicine" is sort of what you'd expect from a band trying to create vintage grunge sounds: There's the mid-tempo pace; the dirty yet professional production; some loud/soft dynamic at play between the verses and chorus; and clean vocals that reach into showboating a little too much, but remain gritty to retain "soul." The band kind of keeps this formula for the entire album, which makes you wish they would have just released the best ideas as an EP and scrapped the rest. Old Scratch tries to straddle the line between true grit and accessibility, much like the genre's pioneers. Sometimes you get magic, like on "Bad Tattoos" with some super catchy vocal melody and driving rhythm that makes you feel like Johnny Kemp in the video for "Just Got Paid". Then on the other hand you get the rest of the album, which makes you think of bad tattoos and people smoking out of the hole in their neck. Not yacht rock or anything, but something just as bad: old burnout rock.

While Sonic Youth themselves were never labelled grunge because of their vintage, they are often closely related to the movement. In some of their best moments here, Trophy Wives make clear nods to Sonic Youth–"Crooked Cross", for example, which actually ends up sounding more like a Poster Children song by the end. Usually any mark of SY could mean pure disaster, but the musicians here are talented enough to throw in elements of noise rock as well as softer passages and still reign in what could otherwise be a a failed aimless mess of "artistic expression."

Sure, this isn't Puddle of Mudd, but this isn't Mudhoney either, and if Trophy Wives are going to make an impact they'll have to build on their sound here rather than just try and sweat with the oldies.