After last years impressive grunge influenced debut, California X return with grubby 1980s thrash and alt-rock reworked with catchier melodies and dense guitar layers. Head-nodding teen angst is great, but by blending a diverse range of influences from small scenes they create something original enough to stand outside all those references.
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- Nights In The Dark by California X
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American punx California X exist in a Northeasterly scene where personal stories are important, emotions are best worn on their sleeves and the fuzz is a mere helping hand. Basically, garage rawk that cares about you. Local Massachusetts band Speedy Ortiz have already opened the world at large up to the affections of the Massachusetts scene with their moving and torched ‘Major Arcana’, but California X wring as much emotion from their songs, doing so with less frills and a whole lot more immediacy. Their second record, ‘Nights In The Dark’, is another record that consoles thrashing guitars with a deep sigh and a pat on the back.
While their debut buoyed a little more grunge in the tank, ‘Night In The Dark’ fills the room with light air and a cool breeze. Half way through the record’s first side, the band insert “Ayla’s Song”, an acoustic instrumental based around pretty, tragic notes that then cuts out early with little more than a “cool!”. It recalls Tony Molina’s twenty-odd second “Sick Ass Riff” from last year, which temporarily cut out the fuzz of ‘Dissed and Dismissed’, only to bring it back in. Then there are the actual songs of ‘Night In The Dark’ -- their melodies, borrowed out of early-era Superchunk, the raspy, sighed vocals recalling Leeds’ own Menace Beach, the choruses very fucking distorted and very happy about it.
While ‘Nights In The Dark’ is a strangely warming record, it continues to betray the band’s penchant for perfectly pitched melodrama. The band rattle through lyrics about general and unsorted dejection, like “Met everybody at least twice / and I’ve hit another social wall”. Underneath the fuzzy layers, it sounds modest and accepting, like it’s a problem but not one for us to worry about. California X are good at making us feel, but they never make us feel too bad.
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