Outdoor Velour - Face the Strange (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Outdoor Velour

Face the Strange (2015)


I’m by no means extremely familiar with the work of David Bowie, but I can catch an obvious reference to his work. “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes”, the opening track on Outdoor Velour’s first LP, invokes a well-known David Bowie track, but it’s a tribute in phrasing alone. It’s also something of a mislead and quite literally invokes the album title, preparing the listener for something entirely strange: it’s over a minute of near cacophonous noise and feedback, though it’s not the “strange” that listener is facing the rest of the album. When the real music kicks in with track two, you’ll find what’s truly strange (er, unique) about the record is the juxtaposition of a million different styles by the wife-husband duo of Outdoor Velour. For some, the genre jumping might be a bit overwhelming. But I’d reckon Face the Strange would be breath of fresh air to many listeners.

The first half batch of songs seems to lean more towards pop, new wave, and electronic genres, while still pulsing with a rock and roll heart. “Endless Circle” brings me back to the big pop-chorus sing-alongs of I’m From Barcelona (remember those guys?), while “Sugar Love” is a sickly sweet folk-infused love song as saccharine as its title. “Don’t Know” is a full on electronic pop song, benefiting from a killer digital drumbeat. “Go North”, a particularly strong track, displays what’s most likeable about the band: the vocal interplay between the two sole members, Cara and Greg. Both have voices just unique and not-perfect enough to be endearing, but when they’re harmonizing the same part (as they do on the chorus of “Go North”), it’s incredibly effective.

The band really opens up the second half of the album, inviting a grungy pop-rock sound for the likes of “Got the Hives” and “Echoes”. The goofy “Casper the Friendly Ghost” is classic Weezer in every way, and is one of the album’s simplest and best songs. The final track, “Zapp’s Song”, an ode to the family dog, is a mixed bag. It’s the album’s most poignant and has a huge orchestral build, complete with flutes and strings, but the lyrics would benefit from some subtlety. It’s from the point of view of the dog himself and can be a little cringe-worthy at times, though I think that was Cara and Greg were going for.

With an album like this, diversity can either be its biggest blessing or greatest curse. While it may be a refreshing take on disparate sounds Greg and Cara enjoy, each song risks alienating the listener because it’s just SO different from the last. Judging from lead vocals alone, it seems the Greg-penned songs fall a little on the heavier pop-rock side, where Cara’s tracks are radio-ready and poppy. With this divide, listeners might end up picking favorites and discarding the rest depending on where their tastes land. Either way, kudos to the band for fucking going for it. This ain’t a four chord rock album. There’s a lot to take in and it’s worth the exploration. 

Disclaimer: Outdoor Velour includes Punknews Podcast editor Greg Simpson. Reviewer Alex Meylink has no association with Greg aside from the fact that they both contribute to Punknews