Monday, January 4, 2021

CD Odyssey Disc 1437: RVG

I’m back at work, which means the reviews will start flowing again. Huzzah! This next album did not make the Top 15 for 2020, but I liked it plenty all the same.

Disc 1437 is…. Feral

Artist: RVG

Year of Release: 2020

What’s up with the Cover?  My best guess is this is a crab, a camera, and a black wig. Some other random items as well. I really have no idea what this cover is going for but I do know I don’t like it. Focus!

How I Came To Know It: I read a review of this album on Paste Magazine and decided to give it a shot. I liked it!

How It Stacks Up: This is my only RVG album, so it can’t really stack up. RVG put out a record prior to this, but it didn’t grab me the same way.

Ratings: 3 stars but almost 4

If you are feeling a bit too relaxed after a holiday staycation, then fear not: RVG’s second album, “Feral”, has angst to spare. Fortunately, the angst is channelled through melodies that roll and spin through your body and make your soul dance. It will sometimes be a sad dance, but it’ll be a dance all the same.

RVG have a heavy throwback quality to their music. So much so that while they qualify as ‘post-punk’, you’d be forgiven if you thought they were from the mid-eighties edition rather than several decades later. There is a strong Echo & the Bunnymen vibe, both in the dolorous but danceable melodies, and the full round vocals of frontwoman Romy Vager.

The band is incredibly tight and the light reverb in the guitar makes you think of many bands from back in the day (the Cure also comes to mind, particularly when the guitar is chugging out haunting, reverb-laden riffs). Fortunately, RVG plays with an organic, honest energy that keeps things from becoming derivative. They like this sound – a lot - but they’re making their own mark within it. Getting mad at them for staying in their lane would be like refusing to listen to Sharon Jones sing RnB; you’re only hurting yourself.

While everyone in the band is good, singer Romy Vager is the star of the show. She has a rich and full tone which she uses to wrap hurt and heartbreak around every word. Some singers slur or rush their words, or put weird affectations on their delivery, all in the vain hope of creating an emotional effect out of thin air. Vager needs no such tricks. Her lyrics aim straight for the heart, and her voice knifes like a paddle through the dappled arrangements of her bandmates.

As for those bandmates, I love all the soft layering of instrumentation employed to give the songs their restless undercurrent. The record could benefit from trying out a few more paths to the same place, by which I mean a lot of the songs have a very similar sound. A bit of variety in construction would have been welcome, even though they all sound good.

The record’s opening track, “Alexandra” is also its best. The song is a powerful exploration of life as a trans woman and doesn’t pull any punches. Vager explores the very real possibility of dying from a hate crime, and the terrifying rejection of parents. The song is stark, but near the end the narrator shares the acceptance and love of her little sister (the titular character), finding some hope amongst the horror.

It's not all redemption, though, with more than a few harsh breakup songs. Like Lucinda Williams, Taylor Swift and the Chicks’ Natalie Maines, Romy Vager is someone you do not want writing a song about you if things end badly. When Romy applies all that hurt, lines as simple and straightforward as “I used to love you/But now I don’t” gain an extra thump that the words will ever earn on the page.

RVG is an Australian band, so given current circumstances they won’t be embarking on a North American tour anytime soon. I look forward to the day that changes, hopefully in support of a new record; I’m looking forward to where their sound goes from here.

Best tracks: Alexandra, Little Sharie & the White Pointer Sisters, Help Somebody, I Used to Love You

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