By Drew Williams
You and your lover sit on your living room sofa staring at your reflections in the blank TV screen. There is music playing somewhere, but neither of you really seem to be aware. You both are in a trance-like state, with a slight feeling of déjà vu. The music carries on without enough of an emotional dynamic to snap your stupor. There is just the steady, familiar caress of an unimposing lover leaving you almost paralyzed. This is the general feeling of the California Wives’ debut album. What the Chicago-based dreamy alt-pop rock group proposes is some Art History.
Here, rather than a real art expedition, is what seems more like a concise summary of the ‘post-Strokes’ mainstream of non-threatening melodies, steady rhythms and general catatonia. There is a noticeable imprint of The Cure and other 1980s flagships in the production’s deliberate, yet hazy synth-rock orientation. Sweeping, balanced and sharp mixes augment virtually every track. This is the greatest attribute and strength of the record. It is the production that saves the day from mostly rehashed, banal song structuring and themes.
Many will find this to be a pleasant collection of mild rockers and will cheerfully blast it in their car stereos with their friends on the way to the local mall. But, the weathered music purists will not be at all enthralled by this affair. You may not be riled or stirred by the almost-too-perfect rhythms and the relatively insipid lyrical recitations. If nothing else, Art History can serve as sufficient background music for a weeknight of teenage love revisited.
Though at times blissful, weightless and innocently brooding, California Wives seem to be capable of creating more evocative and mature music further down the road. Maybe at that point can the word art be brought into the discussion. For now the more apt title may be Adolescent History.