The Lavender Flu, "Ignorance Restored" (In the Red)
Portland's the Lavender Flu remind me of those underground rock bands that made the '90s an exciting time to be a young—or even middle-aged— underground-rock fan: Royal Trux, Olivia Tremor Control, Supreme Dicks, Wingtip Sloat. Like those groups, the Lavender Flu are destined to be cult faves, but the fact that they're opening for Ty Segall and White Fence on this current West Coast tour suggests that their fan base is burgeoning (or will burgeon imminently). The Flu deserve to go viral.
Led by Hunches guitarist/vocalist Chris Gunn and featuring bassist Scott Simmons (former member of Eat Skull and proprietor of one of Portland's best record stores, Exiled Records), the Hunches' Ben Spencer, and Gunn's brother Lucas, Lav Flu write deceptively catchy melodies garlanded with lightly distorted guitars and blessed with surprising dynamics. As a bonus, Gunn's endearingly world-weary vocals could be an American take on the Only Ones' Peter Perrett's. The Lavender Flu don't always make it easy to hum their tunes, but when you finally do crack their codes after two or three listens, the rewards magnify. It takes great skill to make low-fidelity rock to resonate and sound this interesting in 2018.
The follow-up to their sprawling 2016 juggernaut of skewed brilliance, Heavy Air, the Lavender Flu's Mow the Glass album is more concise and perhaps more focused, but it has its freaky moments, too, amid the glassy-eyed, poignant ones. For example, "Ignorance Restored" (great title). In the grand tradition of mind-blowing finales, it pulls out 100 percent of the stops, beginning with momentous strumming intro before launching into a waxing and waning structure where rich, Velvet Underground-like guitar jangle (think "Heroin") alternates with cantankerous bass eruptions. Key passage: "Follow the flowers/They lead to a field of knives/Look to the sewer/It's there where your teacher lies." Over four-and-a-half minutes, the Lavender Flu hold a masterly seminar in dynamics and drama. It just might be the crown of their creation.
The Lavender Flu play Neumos on Monday, October 8, with Ty Segall and White Fence.