Music Reviews

Abe Vigoda Crush

(Post Present Medium/Bella Union) Rating - 8/10

Dismissing their palpably murderous spirit, Abe Vigoda have always held a dramatic, Shakespearean approach behind their muscular sound. Their second full length, 2008’s Skeleton, ridged math rock arrangements with non-stop bouts of exhilarating delay pedaling and thunderous drum work. In spite of that, a celebratory tropical influence surfaced Micheal Vidal’s tormented vocals, which were always unclear behind all the overjoyed noise. He tackled heavy themes such as mortality and heartache, balancing a scale that teetered up and down between frightening and divine imagery. Who would’ve figured that behind all that cockamamie behavior, the Chino, California quartet actually had a heart?

Abe Vigoda are no strangers to rewriting and tweaking their stylistic motifs. Whereas Kid City was a full-on upsurge of amateurish, yet delicious angular guitars and odd howls, Skeleton was more a continuation of their abrasive sound but with a Caribbean flavor and above the 12th fret abuse. And then the dreaded tropical punk tag caught on like wild fire. Having inherited the genre, they now had the responsibility to withhold its reputation. But having executed it so well, it would become a crime to abandon that trademark for any future release. Sensitive to repeat themselves, there was no other choice but to move on towards the next natural progression.

Their latest, titled Crush, explores the vast territory of 80’s synth crazed cheekiness, regressing to a time that fearlessly embraced excess and misinterpreted experimentation as innovation. Instead of favoring the usual new wave gloss, a grainy muddle subdues the production by darkening all the dazzle with a vaporous cloud of haze. This change of direction is also due to the expertise of new member Michael Chadwick, whose programmed beats and reverbed drums distress the overall opacity they usually employ. Sequins immediately shows indications of their new wave leanings, depending on lush electronics to overthrow vocal choruses and even keyboard buildups to build up tension and dramatic effect. In Dream About your Love, they’re really taking their stipulated cold wave by heart, executing some distant synth work and ominous effects reminiscent of a tamer version of Bauhaus. 

Another important aspect of Abe Vigoda’s new facet is the fact that Michael Vidal’s overwrought vocals are now featured prominently in the mix. When November cycles through a familiar quasi-tropical beat with sonics, Vidal really tries to enunciate but can’t quite articulate the true emotional level he wants to achieve  - his warped delivery results like a mash-up between David Bowie and Marilyn Manson. He splendidly channels his inner Edwyn Collins in To Tears, a rhythmically funky number with a disco zest which could’ve furthered Orange Juice’s direction had they decided to fancy a more theatrical approach. Vidal even explores his romantic side in Repeating Angel, a six minute gloomy dirge that sparkles like a stoic frozen river.  Guessing the influences in Vidal’s voice is a welcoming exercise, especially because his hard-at-it approach to transfix is nothing short of endearing.

Crush is a valiant step for Abe Vigoda. They’re daring their fanbase to go along with them through their latest approach method, as if forming a focus group of listeners to figure out and rethink why they fell in love with the band in the first place. Even if an abundance of programming tools are on hand, all the delectable qualities that defined the band since their beginnings are still intact. There’s still a fair amount of sharp guitars, post-chorus breakdowns are just as memorable, and metronome time signatures are still shattered. Not to mention, their shrewd tact for melody is as resounding as ever. Crush is the result of Abe Vigoda’s common practice to evolve without abandoning their signature sound.