We’ve all heard it before: sad songs for lonely days walking home in the sun, contrasting bright sounds with moody vibes for psychedelic effect, using psychedelic synth sounds for psychedelic effect. There’s nothing wrong or unenjoyable about Holy Wave’s fifth full-length release, Interloper, except for the very real sensation that, again, we’ve heard it before. Their influences are so recognizable, in terms of their contemporaries in addition to groups as far back as the Beatles, that it’s easy to forget who you’re listening to. Listening to Interloper becomes an exercise in trying to find Holy Wave in the broader category of psychedelic-pop, and you want to like the album because, when it comes down to it, it’s put together really well.
Despite that criticism, there are moments on Interloper that are almost shocking in how unexpectedly they arise. Take the chorus on the album’s opener, “Schmetterling”: a lyricless, disharmonious cacophony of synthesized strings and horns that reminds you of the feeling you had the first time you heard The Beatles’ “Revolution 9”, just psychedelic confusion. It isn’t the chorus in itself that’s surprising but how it contrasts with the rest of the song, which consists of a plethora of carefully harmonized, layered synthesizers and bells, twinkling away. That contrast breaks the mold in a way you don’t hear much of throughout the album, and is perhaps its most satisfying moment.
“Interloper”, though, the title track, seems to be the most purposeful track. Its structure differs in that its first two-thirds are made up only of the verse, with passages that emphasize lyrics and others that emphasize the instrumental, all of which is followed by a key change into a triumphant one-time chorus that takes us to the song’s end. The lyrics of this final section consist of the statements “anything that you want, you can buy”, then “when everyone who lived here before can barely get by”, and “if there was anyway you could buy love, you’d be alright”. In light of these words, the album might stand for something more than break ups and lonely days where the weather is fine.
Other than these moments, Interloper feels like the guys from Holy Wave sat around for a while listening to a compilation of the Beatles’ trippiest moments, other keyboard-driven ideas from 60’s British pop, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and some Black Moth Super Rainbow, and then smashed it all together to see what would happen. The result is a well-produced album that falls short of its ambitions. Still, it’s a fun listen, even if the vibe is not all that special anymore.