Release Date: May 13, 2016
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Arbor Labor Union likes to sing about singing. The Georgia post-punk band’s debut album, released in 2015 under the name Pinecones, was titled Sings for You Now, and it contained numerous lyrical references to the titular act; in essence, the album was an account of the band’s own creation, propelled by muscular hymns and steeped in a mystical if not downright metaphysical aura. If Sings for You Now was an origin story, I Hear You is a mission statement.
Love hippies, but hate guitar solos? Well, have we found the band for you! Arbor Labor Union are a minimalist hard rock band from Georgia whose resin-friendly sound and "Wow, man"-centric lyrics give them the outward appearance of a stoner band (the sort whose take on metal is only so heavy). But while the band's guitar attack is ongoing and unrelenting, Arbor Labor Union don't seem especially interested in stretching out while they jam; guitarists Bo Orr and Brian Adams show precious little interest in reeling off showy guitar figures, instead opting to find the riffs and let them repeat themselves until the song finally resolves itself. This approach works up to a point on I Hear You, the group's debut album (though the band previously recorded under the name the Pinecones).
Falling somewhere in between Pixies at their most unhinged and The Velvet Underground at their most propulsive, Georgia's Arbor Labor Union create a kind of psychedelic Southern rock, engrained with grooves and peppered with hallucinogenic imagery. Releasing their first record under the name of Pinecones, the four-piece have since taken root and developed in to the hypnotic, and hugely upbeat and off-kilter outfit they are today. “Transmission granted.
“Arbor Labor Union was born from a peach tree in Georgia in the American south. They play psychedelic, repetitious, and joyful rock and roll music,” claims the PR surrounding Sub Pop’s November 2015 signing’s first album under their new moniker (they were previously known as Pinecones). Further delving will reveal that they’re slightly bonkers, with self-made wafflings about a mighty green conifer tree having limbs wider than the sun’s smile enough to raise an initial eyebrow of concern.
Grizzled riffs that – across nine sprawling tracks – deliberately shun any hint of sophistication, the debut from Georgia-based four-piece Arbor Labor Union is a curious beast (over and beyond the fact that they’ve previously released a long player under former name Pinecones). As an exercise in grinding, guitar-driven repetition, I Hear You pootles along under its own steam, less concerned with melody as occupying the space, vocalist Bo Orr singing (or rather 'singing') with a monotone burr suggesting he's suffering from stomach cramps. Yet however much interest the band either attempt to whip up or consciously ignore (and moments such as I Am You do foster a psychedelic undercurrent, just as Volume Peaks swims against fret-based interplay that’s never fully explored), as a whole the experience lacks the nuance and multiple textures required to make such guitar-centric endeavours a real delight.