L.A.’s psychedelic rock sons, Wand, return with their 5th album, Laughing Matter. Despite the Ty Segall connections (Evan Burrows and Corey Hanson played in Segall’s backing band The Muggers), They seem to be moving away from a fuzzed-out rock sound to more contemplative Radiohead-ish territory. Plenty of experimentation going on, so all is good.
Staff note from Clinton:
I really liked last year's Perfume but by the sounds of this these LA psychsters have gone in a very Radiohead direction which is fine if you like Radiohead but if not you might want to skip it.Cory Hanson spends a lot of his time here imitating Thom Yorke. If you are into Radiohead's misery rock then you should check it.
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Mmm, it’s a bit Radiohead-y, a little Can-y, and a smidge bit like Clinic, I’m talking here about the new Wand record, ‘Laughing Matter’. I really like this record. As mentioned, Radiohead definitely spring to mind when listening to this record. Second track ‘xoxo’ has the repeated lyric ‘X marks the spot’ which is so Thom Yorke it’s jumping around in a little black trilby yelping weakly. This record is still Wand’s own, however.
At fifteen tracks long, this is an album with lots of scope but not scope for scope’s sake. There’s a gorgeous ambient interlude called ‘bubble’ which deserves its place on the album, a strange electronic-country ditty called ‘High Planes Drifter’ which is just lovely, and more fantastic psychy art-rock tunes that you can shake a rainstick at.
I’ve tried to find a bad moment on this album but I really can’t, it’s just brilliant. Of course, a few tracks on this album are going down furroughs that have been ploughed before but who cares when the songs are that good? This is a superb effort from a band that look to be showing no signs of letting up.
8/10 LH 21st May 2019
I'm sure Wand are already regretting ever releasing Laughing Matter because all they seem to be getting for it are Radiohead comparisons, but it can't be helped. Not only are Cory Hanson's vocals incredibly Yorke-esque, but on Laughing Matter their sound touches on that precious sweet point between when Radiohead could honestly be called a rock band, and before they started abandoning lead guitars altogether.
The comparisons come all too easily but Laughing Matter proves to be more than just the superficial elements. It's a long album in a classically hodgepodge way: noisy guitar walls and toned-down acoustic moodpieces one moment, ambient-esque interludes and extended melodic suites the other. If you want to reach out for another comparison, you can trace a clear line between Laughing Matter and the 90s Smashing Pumpkins at their most ambitious, a single-disc Mellon Collie where most of the band gets a turn at lead vocals and the tone can switch from carefully radio-ready buoyant guitar shimmers to slowburners that require careful attention in an instant.
It's an ambitious record then, and the more you listen the more rewarding it is and the more Wand's own identity starts to shine over the tempting comparisons. As most records this varied inevitably do, there's a few less exciting sections scattered throughout where you could argue cutting them out would have raised this to classic levels, but the good parts are easily among 2019's overall highlights so far: the hypnotic "Scarecrow" and "xoxo", bright and perky "Rio Grande" and "Thin Air", the noisy assault of "Walkie Talkie" and the 9-minute, appropriately floaty centrepiece "Airplane" keep inviting the listener back in.
I'm a newcomer to Wand completely and this is likely going to be their breakthrough album for many like me. Kudos to them, Laughing Matter is worthy of acting as their bounce board for greater acknowledgment. One of 2019's big, positive surprises.
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