Wow, Owls! - Pick Your Patterns (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Wow, Owls!

Pick Your Patterns (2005)

The Perpetual Motion Machine

Followers of Light The Fuse And Run, who disbanded in 2003, should be fairly pleased to know that Jeff Byers, who handled bass duties for the band, helped form Wow, Owls! shortly after, now handling vocal duties for the RVA outfit. While the two bands certainly share similarities in their genre's vague deviation and general sense of musical chaos, Pick Your Patterns proves pointedly that progression has taken place.

As previously mentioned, the band is definitely highly influenced by screamo traditionalists, like the ones found on the early 90's Gravity Records roster or present-day Level Plane. Only, Wow, Owls! are much less intense and chaotic, and as a result more accessible. While this might give you the impression that the band is watering down what's widely hailed as a group of acts achieving a creative and art-driven sound, it couldn't be farther from the truth. Instead, it gives a unique perspective on the style, as it also elicits similarities with post-hardcore contemporaries like the now defunct This Day Forward (circa In Response, of course). Like TDF, a fair portion of the cleanly sung vocals are expressed in a rhythmic talking manner, again mixing up what's already a cohesive and yet varied record.

Buried in the production is some really cool tempo changes, anthemic climaxes, and cynical moods; a track like "I'll Be Your Huckleberry" contains them all. Opening track "1989 = The Best Four Years Of My Life" has a nicely executed instrumental part prefacing the bridge that helps build for the rising and falling of its forthcoming emotional breakdown, and it's highly reminiscent of the same one in Saetia's "One Dying Wish." "Chris, Did You Ruin The Dance Party?" is one of the disc's more epic tracks, as double-speaker-enforced vocal chants and stereo separation between the two guitarists occurs during the song's breakdown...which brings us to another interesting point. Instead of the more high-pitched octaves so often used in the style, guitarists John Hall and Brandon peck favor an urgency in distorted chords and (de)crescendoing action.

Lyrically, the band enjoys cleverly manipulating conversational clichés, and though they may seem rather simple at first, they're clever enough to elicit odd pseudo-paradoxes as evidenced in lines like "And if misery loves company, then I don't want to be miserable so I can rest alone," and "We will dance like everyone is watching / clap our hands like everyone is watching." There's a disjointed though well-written quality to the lyrics á la Schwarzenbach.

Pick Your Patterns is pleasantly short and, just the same, the most solid debut we've seen arrive this year yet. And, though the band's artwork feels awfully out of place during the Spring season, I can't deny the appeal of its warm Autumn colors, collage nature and Thanksgiving-ish, cornucopia-like disc art, which are all definite pluses. Somewhere there's an unwritten list of bands praised left and right for making mercurially intense and creatively hardcore-oriented music. Whoever's mentioned, it only seems fair that if not now then later, Wow, Owls! would receive acknowledgment.

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