Now Hear This: September 2019

Reviews of new albums by Geoff Palmer, Louse, and Palanana

“Pulling Out All The Stops” by Geoff Palmer

geoff palmer all the stops

To the passive listener, Geoff Palmer’s new record, “Pulling Out All The Stops,” is a fun pop album played at lightning speed. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll find it’s a smart, cognizant collection of songs about the superficialities of rock stardom.

The brilliant aspect of Palmer’s solo release is the self-awareness that comes with a hit-after-hit album. Songs like “This One’s Gonna Be Hot” and “All The Hits” are positively negative about the plight of aging established rock bands. An infectious chorus like “play me all the hits / I don’t care about that other shit” reflects the audience’s agenda to hear songs that make them nostalgic rather than letting the artist bloom, a sad-but-true trope for pop-punk bands.

In “We Can’t Do It,” his most Beach Boys moment on the album, Palmer addresses the unrealistic expectations placed upon modern touring bands. “We can’t tour all year round / and hold our fame til you’re underground / ’cause the cash ain’t comin’ in / and we don’t want to sleep in the van again.” Coming from an artist who has seen significant airplay for years on one of Sirius XM’s most established rock stations, Palmer masterfully humanizes himself to remind us that success can be an illusion when you’re living like a gypsy.

Palmer is a songwriter’s songwriter who is married to the music. The album is so damn good and the songs are so damn catchy that fans can’t help but sing along to criticisms written specifically about their listening habits.

“Pulling Out All the Stops” is Palmer’s most memorable collection of songs since his old band The Guts released “Let It Go,” but it results in something all too meta. Soon enough, fans might be shouting requests for Palmer to play his own hits about playing all the hits. For the time being, though, enjoy the momentum of the album and don’t look back.

Geoff Palmer will perform on the Button Factory Stage at WSCA Portsmouth Community Radio to kick off a fall tour on Friday, Sept. 27.

“Remedy” by Louse

louse remedy

Too melodic to be post-rock, too tough to be indie, too fast to be alternative, Louse breaks the barriers on barrier-breaking genres.

Remedy,” the band’s debut album, is a musical potpourri, a mixture of styles drawn from the band’s influences. In the song “In Dreams,” bassist Justin Uhlig hollers a line from “Give It Away” before the band launches into a Red Hot Chili Peppers groove. In “Setting Suns,” they dabble with a brighter punk sound extracted from the Fat Wreck Chords bands of the ’90s and driven by drummer Jason DiCicco.

The album presents a grab-bag of tracks, with Uhlig and guitarists Dylan Gleason and Matt Dahl alternating on vocal duties. Gleason and Dahl both hit the higher register, while Uhlig strikes a balance between the baritone mumblings of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and the throaty holler of Motorhead’s Lemmy.

While the album consistently explodes with energy, the lyrics are introspective. Songs like “Brave,” “Here,” and the title track act as catalysts for the band’s confessions of self-doubt. Each singer gives us a character study of himself set to gushing guitar noise, without just sticking to the verse-chorus-verse formula.

For a band with such outsider influences, Louse and “Remedy” fit perfectly with their contemporaries in the DIY Seacoast music scene.

“pleasant tense” by Palanana

palanana pleasant tense

The clouds don’t loom as dark anymore. The introspection is still there, but instead of wallowing in it, it seems embraced, a crutch to move forward into the future. In their new album’s opening sentence, local band Palanana encapsulates the precise mentality of love songs written by the lonely: “Testing out a who I’m singing to when I say you.”

pleasant tense” is a sunnier effort than 2017’s “Wonderful Most Incredible,” which was released under the name Palanapanche. Multi-instrumentalist Palana Belken circumvents the crypticness of the previous album and introduces a pop twist to the new songs. It’s fascinating to hear the transformation from the dark, twisting guitar wizardry of “cosmetic psychiatry,” off of “Wonderful Most Incredible,” to the almost twee-like lyrics in the new track “SS”: “I got the goosebumps and my eyes on you / Friend you on Instagram and like a photo or two.”

The experimentalism is still there; “LSD” is about as far-out as the album gets, a playful-yet-trippy song teetering on the edge of breakdown. There are, however, elements that brighten the album, such as the ukulele on “PT,” the bouncy major-key riffs in “IDK,” and The Postal Service-esque electronica of “SSRI.”

If “Wonderful Most Incredible” was Belken’s cry for help, “pleasant tense” is the journey toward recovery, bringing the life back into life. Perhaps it’s the SSRI antidepressants, or maybe it’s the fallout from a good LSD trip. Regardless, everything seems a little rosier in “pleasant tense” — and I’m not just saying that because of the drugs.