Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
There are clever band names, and there are lame band names. There are band names that intrigue with their ridiculousness, and others that inspire controversy through their ambiguous meaning or brazen disregard for public reaction. There are band names with deep, personal meaning to the members, and names that were most likely forged in the fires of Random Band Name Generator.
And then there’s the band named Weed.
While you take a moment to laugh hysterically for a bit at the idea of a band willingly naming their group Weed, know that frontman Will Anderson has explained numerous times that the name has nothing to do with Snoop Dogg’s favorite plant. That said, it’s still a pretty baffling choice. But it definitely got our attention, which is how we discovered their new album Running Back (along with their 2013 debut Deserve that you should definitely check out as well). Released on April 7th via Lefse Records, Weed’s sophomore effort has the rainy vibe of the Pacific Northwest seared into its DNA, and it’s in embracing such a dreary atmosphere that the Vancouver quartet’s true prowess reveals itself.
From the watery opening riff on “Meet Me With Ease” to the the unsettling dissonance that sneaks into the chorus of lead single “Stay in the Summer,” the songs on Running Back are the musical equivalent of watching a torrential downpour through your living room window. The dark, pummeling energy is certainly felt, but there’s an air of detachment in this album. Unlike many of their peers who dabble the dirtier side of post-punk, Weed have no interest in submerging the listener in a murky pond of feedback. Instead, the rumblings and screeches from the guitars only drop in in short bursts, parallel to the music as opposed to usurping it.
Instead of shocking you with electric bolts of shrieking noise, Anderson and co-guitarist Kevin Doherty alternate between melodies that forego sweetness in favor of an eerie, warped tone, along crushing, fuzzed-up guitars with all the clarity of the black lagoon. Backed up by bassist Hugo Noriega, the end result is a downpour of guitars that obscures everything beyond the listener’s window, perfectly capturing the mesmerizing nature of ceaseless northwestern rain. It’s why the most dissonant chords pop up in a song titled “Stay in the Summer.” The heavy rains of the Pacific Northwest are where Weed feel right at home, and they can’t bear exposure to the summer heat or mindless happy tunes that accompany it.
However, that’s not to say that the record lacks any sort of urgency or high-energy moments. If the guitars are the pouring rain and occasional lightning in the distance, then drummer Bobby Siadat is the thunder. He’s not quite as wild or dynamic as other contemporary punk drummers, but he never fully stabilizes either. Even on more mellowed down tracks like “Hiding Spot” and “Yr Songs,” there’s the sense that subtly bouncing drums could explode at any moment. And on their up-tempo rippers like “Meet Me With Ease,” “Stay in the Summer,” and “Never Leave,” it sounds like he could fall off the drum kit at any second. His frantic presence may not be totally unpredictable (it becomes easier to guess his next dynamic shift as the album progresses), but he’s bound to sneak up on you at some point no matter how many times you cycle through the record.
Like we said earlier, Weed’s name doesn’t come from the plant in question, according to frontman Will Anderson. He claims to band name actually refers to the verb, specifically “weeding people out of your life.” As much as you might want to scoff at that, that does make way more sense when you consider the themes of Running Back. Anderson said he wrote nearly all the lyrics for the record in one day after his plans of to move to Seattle for a tourin guitar gig with his friends’ band fell apart. And so he ‘ran back’ to Vancouver, to the comforts of familiarity that can’t be washed away by heavy rains. There’s talk heartbreak and friendships disintegrating, but even so Anderson’s vocal delivery hardly ever reaches aggression. His low drone feels completely detached, physically and mentally, from the listener, hiding behind Weed’s blurry guitars and crashing drums as he quietly mourns his fading relationships.
Yet, for all the intrigue surrounding Anderson’s ghostly vocals, the severe lack of emotional projection can feel drowsy at times, and the lyrics are habitually obscured behind their wall of fuzz. Sometimes, even the instrumentals fade too close into nothingness, especially in the middle of record with tracks like “Depending On” and “Puncture.” While the former’s gradual dissolve is at least an interesting way to end the song, the latter seemingly abandons its thoughts altogether, leaving the listener with nothing but a full minute of what we can only describe as “depressed accordion.” Neither ever gets a real chance to have its full say, and even though they’re followed by the far superior “Hiding Spot,” having three slow-burn tracks sandwiched together slows record pulse to a crawl by the end of the first half. Fortunately, the album’s second half picks up the pace without hesitation, and the first four tracks leave such a daunting impression the record is still more than worth cycling through.
Sure, if you’re looking to stock your library with feel-good summer jams for the coming months, this record isn’t for you. If anything Weed’s sophomore album is a full retreat from sunshine, finding solace in the gloomy downpours notorious in their Pacific Northwest home. But if you find yourself looking to set the mood on a rainy day, craving a noisy indie/punk record that isn’t quite as in-your-face, or simply searching for a music counterweight to the crushing summer humidity, Weed will welcome you with rain-soaked arms and hopefully an umbrella. Just don’t make fun of their name. They’ve earned that much.
Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer