"Relaxation Is my Specialty"
(In the Red)
1/2 (out of 5)
Stranger Genius Award–winner Lars Finberg of the Intelligence recently joined LA's Wounded Lion. A man of Finberg's stature and talent wouldn't devote his tight drumming and guitaring skills to just anybody (see Thee Oh Sees), so obviously you must pay attention to these artful garage punks.
Wounded Lion—the 2009 LP that boasted the ultracatchy "Pony People," which the Intelligence covered on Fake Surfers; see how this works?—abounds with flinty, compact anthems that spark like pre–Brix Smith Fall and the Embarrassment. Wounded Lion often double up on the shouted vocals to up their songs' memorability, and they somehow craft hooks that are infectious and familiar without sounding played out.
Following up such a strong debut full-length is daunting, but IVXLCDM rises to the challenge. The album roars with a more mordant, bassier sound that at times recalls Finberg's old band A Frames. "Raincheck Vibrations" depicts a poignant episode from Batman and one from The Love Boat to a roiling, nocturnal surf-rock backing. The excellent "Going into the Unknown" finds Wounded Lion turning it down a notch to rock more subliminally and intriguingly. "Black Ops" is the obvious single here, balancing a buoyant melody with a surplus of bass/guitar crunch and punch. I can picture college-radio DJs nationwide moshing their asses off to it already. It's a testament to Wounded Lion's greatness that their cover of Lou Reed's "Oh, Jim" is IVXLCDM's least-essential component.