Release Date: Mar 8, 2011
Record label: Sonic Unyon
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Noise Pop, Shoegaze
As fans of new music it can be so easy to get lost in the search for something bold, exciting, and original that you sometimes forget just how satisfying well-executed, formulaic music can be. Take Austin, Texas’s Ringo Deathstarr, for instance. Sporting a band name that sounds lifted from a silly Twitter hashtag game (say, #beatlesstarwars), they have absolutely nothing new to say, simply following the leads of the Jesus and Mary Chain and several C86 bands, churning out the shoegaze and indie pop as if it was 1989 rather than 2011.
Ringo Deathstarr may be based in Texas in the year 2011 but they sound like they were beamed into the future from London circa 1990. No doubt wearing bowl cuts and stripey shirts. Their debut album, Colour Trip, is more of a nostalgia trip as they delve deeply into shoegaze, dream pop, noise pop, and generally seem to be auditioning for a spot on the Creation roster between My Bloody Valentine and Ride.
Glitchy shoegaze, noisy dream pop — call this what you will, but Ringo Deathstarr are reveling in the intricacies of overly loud guitars played with the reverb turned up (several times over, too.) Colour Trip is a romp through that shoegaze playground; it’s a veritable cavalcade of that early '90s sound compressed into one efficient, though not glamorous, album. It's certainly a bit derivative — it wouldn't quite sound out of place in the early '90s alongside 'classic' shoegazers — but that doesn't keep the band from having a good romp with the material. Does it make much of a difference? Colour Trip sounds almost a shoegazing revue, and that will only appeal to some.
When you stop to consider just how many millions of kids have taken their turn thrashing around on guitars, it’s unsurprising that innovation in rock music is a rare thing. Although they come in all different styles and shapes, all guitars are essentially the same tool and there is a limited amount of things you can make it do. Sometimes, then, your best option is to forget about what came before you, turn up the volume and make a jolly good racket.
Texas trio Ringo Deathstarr aren't just fans of British shoegaze royalty such as the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, they've basically created a "How To" guide in their debut album, Colour Trip. Guitars are drenched in reverb and effects, the duel vocals of Elliott Frazier and Alex Gehring coalesce into an unintelligible mass throughout, and there's a layer of ennui that threatens to collapse the whole thing. As with fellow shoegaze revivalists the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ringo Deathstarr know their way around a catchy pop melody as well as a twee couplet; the galloping Do It Every Time features the line "We're falling apart again, she took my cardigan", sung in a way that suggests utter heartbreak over the latter and not the former.
It’s a good thing no one ever told the three Texans behind Ringo Deathstarr that shoegaze’s day in the sun has passed. Elliott Frazier, Daniel Coburn, and Alex Gehring revel in the fuzzy, reverbed noise of My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Just as with the classic records produced by those legends of the mid ’80s-early ’90s, there are some conventional melodies and songs buried deep down in the piles of effect-laden guitars.
Shoegaze drone-noise from Texas, done well but done several times before. Mike Diver 2011 Texan trio Ringo Deathstarr offer evidence aplenty on this debut long-player that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your band lacks any real ingenuity or originality, because if you play loud enough people will, eventually, begin to notice you – to the extent where some of them might even put your records out. When this lot supported A Place to Bury Strangers and The Dandy Warhols in the States, the headliners on each occasion must have wondered if their future selves had time-travelled back in order to play a similar-but-not-quite-as-good set, to ensure the bill-toppers’ place was deserved on substance as well as sales.
Even if the first notes – and, well, most of Colour Trip – sound awfully derivative of British bands from the late 1980s, this Austin trio glitzes it up royally on its full-length bow, especially compared to its 2007 debut EP. Now, singer/guitarist Elliott Frazier is joined by bassist Alex Gehring on vocal duties, a soft, welcomed addition to the low-end rumpus. Does this male/female tandem make them sound even more like My Bloody Valentine? Ringo's never hid its feelings for the seminal noise group, and the double-punch of "So High" and "Two Girls" highlights that crush.