You know how once you get an idea in your head, you can’t shake it no matter what else comes up? That’s happened to me in reviewing Aching Waits, an EP released at the start of the year by San Francisco’s Reunions.
This 4-song 12” EP has nice variation across the board, yet I keep coming back to Hot Water Music, even though the connection is mostly there in the title track (and in the voice of one of the band’s two singers). One has a real Chuck Ragan thing going on—the old, shouty Chuck Ragan of HWM days: hoarse, yet bursting with emotion. It’s not just his voice, though. The whole title track has that magical balance driven by vocal tradeoffs that capturing deeper introspection tainted with frustration and regret. Even the lyrics go this way, pulling together in a fraught chorus highlighted by lines like “There’s dignity in shame/ knowing demons by their name.” The whole chorus is pretty masterful lyricism. While it matches the tone of some of my favorite Hot Water Music of years gone by, it’s similar but different. Instead of that backing wall of sound and dual guitar interplay, Reunions push for a climatic rise that’s met by vocal harmonies at its peak.
While the two singers have distinct styles, they pull together more often than they utilize tradeoffs, giving the EP a single voice. I played up my comparison earlier but Reunions definitely aren’t a carbon copy. There’s a lot of familiar influence in their sound, including from No Idea Records of the late ‘90s-early ‘00s, plus some melodic flourishes of West Coast skatepunk and a few melodic hardcore progressions sneaking in here and there. It’s maybe more like Chuck Ragan singing for American Steel. It’s catchy up front but with a lot of depth on closer listen. Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s Stacey Dee lends some additional vocals in “Head North,” giving it yet another dimension early on the record.
I didn’t know much of Reunions coming into this short-play record, but I’ll be seeking them out for more. Maybe next time I’ll review them without a million namedrops. The vinyl comes with their 2016 self-titled EP on side B (not included in this review).
7.5 / 10
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