A few years removed from 2015's ¡Piratas!, a record I found singularly outstanding, Portland, Oregon band Dark Oz returned with a second EP entitled Alligators. Unsurprisingly given circumstances affecting the Dark Oz project around the time of Piratas' release, namely, the death of drummer Lorien Bourne (a.k.a. Styx) while on tour, Alligators has quite a different sound from that heard on the prior album, with the band, a somewhat stripped down duo prone to bits of sonic experimentation on ¡Piratas!, expanding out to a more traditional, rock-oriented three-piece outfit.
Guitarist and vocalist Frank Meriwether's ability to write appealing songs featuring what I might describe as bits of earthy wisdom is evident right from the opener "Toadstools," which shifts from a more uptempo beginning into a pleasantly laid-back second half. "Formaldehyde and Alligators" most obviously demonstrates the band's punk rock influences, with hard-driving bass pushing the song towards a nifty instrumental section around the midway point, and snarling guitar lines also figure into the relatively brief, straightforward rock song "Reeling Through the Dark."
"Egoelectricity" for me recalls something like the The Animals' rendition of "House of the Rising Sun." The track's mysterious, bluesy vibe carries into the subsequent "River Rat," with Meriweather's rough and smoky vocal delivery well-suited to the darker lyrical material. There's a sense of longing and desperation present in the lyrics of "Everglades," which, along with the addition of dreamy and warm backing vocal parts, provide this track with a more affecting emotional punch than any other here, precisely what I would ideally want from a closing track.
Though, perhaps unavoidably, almost entirely dislike the band's previous album, Alligators winds up being nothing if not solid. Full of crisp guitar work and compelling, imaginative lyrics, the album capably transitions from more upbeat numbers to more moody ones, capped off by a potent finale that works exceedingly well in context. It's not as conspicuously unique as its predecessor, but I'd call Alligators an engrossing and memorable listening experience nevertheless.
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