Try to think of a truly great ten song album where the majority of tracks clock in at five minutes or more. Nothing? Okay, then let’s try this: name three songs you love that go beyond the five-minute mark…jam band songs and live versions don’t count. It’s not easy, right? Attempting to keep just one song interesting for over five minutes is difficult for any artist/band. On their latest album, Freaks of Nurture, El Paso, Texas’ psychedelic rock quintet Holy Wave strive to make six out of ten tracks entertaining for five minutes or more with mixed results.
The strongest moments on Freaks of Nurture occur when Holy Wave keep the songs short and tight. The quick pace, layered guitars, and warped keyboard on “You Should Lie” convincingly recall beloved early nineties British shoegaze acts such as My Bloody Valentine and Ride. “Magic Landing” is another equally successful shorter track that works well through its use of sharply shifting chords and a persistent tambourine.
Only two of the six longer tracks are varied enough to hold a listener’s attention for their entire duration. The first, “Western Playland”, utilizes pleasant analogue synths to enhance a thoughtful chord progression alongside a repeated lead phrase. The second, “Air Wolf”, builds on an optimistic guitar riff, alternating treated vocals that give the illusion of a duet, and an unexpected tempo shift two-thirds in. The rest of the songs on Freaks of Nurture sound like tracks you’d either ignore or skip past if they showed up on an Animal Collective radio playlist on Spotify.
Coming up with three compelling musical parts that can be convincingly stitched together as a verse, chorus, and bridge in order to create a halfway decent three-and-a-half-minute song is difficult enough. Holy Wave’s attempt to extend the length of the majority of songs on Freaks of Nurture past the five-minute mark with simple and repetitive lead guitar hooks, reverb-saturated vocals, and little else just doesn’t cut it.