California X - Nights In The Dark (Cover Artwork)

California X

Nights In The Dark (2015)

Don Giovanni

For those unfamiliar with California X, just have a look at the artwork to their debut LP, Nights in the Dark, for an indicative reference. You will find the uniform for modern garage punkers- a jean vest and long hair. The Amherst, MA dudes are coming off of a well-received debut on Don Giovanni Records and are riding the comparisons to Dinosaur Jr into their second full-length on Don Giovanni. This time, with Dinosaur Jr. sound engineer still working their soundboard, California X are refreshingly more ambitious on their second effort.
Nights In the Dark is nine tracks long, with a pair of two-track long songs and two guitar interludes. It truly is a funny feel for an album given the front half is where one would consider “the hits” lie. It’s not that the two-parters “Blackrazor” and “Summer Wall” don’t work, but drawing out garage rock isn't something that really comes off as exciting since they really get lost in themselves. The first half of the record makes it clear that these guitarists can really rock a guitar solo the fuck out, but when they draw it out, it kind of feels like they’re doing for themselves instead of making it interesting for the listener.
Those hits that I mentioned on the other hand, absolutely make this record worth spinning. The opening track, “Nights In the Dark” opens with a solid thirty seconds of thick fuzz and until the song knocks down the gates into an upbeat anthem. With surprisingly positive lyrics, the album at times is pretty uplifting in a way that avoids being cheesy and avoids taking itself too seriously. The foursome play around some pop sensibilities, which is clear and executed perfectly on “Red Planet.” They certainly don’t abandon any rock and roll elements, but they somehow come out comparable to a band like Diarrhea Planet in the way that with the right balance, garage rock can be fun and lighthearted. “Hadley, MA” proves that neckbreak speeds isn't the element that makes a memorable California X tune. They play at their slowest rate yet, but make their sludgiest tone and let the apathetic melody take over.
California X are still a young band that I hope can hold onto their youth because there’s a ton of youthful energy that has been captured on here when they’re at their best. Nights In the Dark not only contains some of the best work from the band, but also of garage rock that’s coming out these years. If it wasn't for the slow burns and the brevity of the record, it would be a very hard record to follow, but instead, it’s a very hopeful step into the right direction.