Low Culture packs a punch. Not an angry punch, but one that, upon hearing it, your foot taps and your head bobs. The band, bringing ex members of Shang-A-Lang and Total Jock together, somewhat combines those sounds, but here they are growing in a cleaner sound that is more rooted in the melody. Oh, and they round out the group with Marked Men bassist Joe Ayoub.
The real standouts on their debut, Screens, come in the melodies. “Pills,” “Trying to Quit,” and “Thirty-One” all bring powerful elements where Chris Mason’s vocals pull the melody along with the guitar in a beautiful pitch. These harmonious moments are where the record shines, but Low Culture wisely deviates from pure, delicious catchiness by trading off vocals such as in “Nightmare,” which has an ‘80s punk vibe that contrasts nicely. The songs are written in the same key and the structure is relatively similar, pulling the two styles together smoothly without messing up the record’s cohesion. From here, it quickly goes into a Marked Men-styled “Modern World,” which builds over the rapid-fire musicianship to a big harmony, and ends just as quickly without letting up for catching their breath. Later, “California” pulls in a bit of a beach vibe without overshadowing the 1960s garage core. Throughout the twelve songs various influences are at play but the unifying and overlying style is consistent: call it garage/pop-punk if you must.
The songs all fall within that two-minute range, except for the closer (“Magical Thinking”), and they utilize a similar structure, yet they mix up the parts enough that no two songs sound alike. It doesn’t fall too far from the Shang-A-Lang tree but, as the onesheet says, the production has fewer “blown out recordings.” That’s not to say it’s pop-clean production at all. Mason has a nice rasp in his voice and there’s still a fuzzy tone across the board, but the mix is a lot more subtle, which plays to the melodic focus. Screens is only the second 2013 record I’ve reviewed thus far, but it will very likely place highly come year end.