When I first came across Picnic Lightning earlier this year they exuded a 90’s alt-rock vibe to their single “American Ruin”. Now with their first album, the self titled eight track release brings the discordant side of hazy shoegaze rock into other areas of rock with a carefully constructed ramshackle album of afterglow buzz.
Opener “7” is a dirge like warble of dissonant guitars, half awake vocals that bend into their keys in a slow motion explosion of noise. That may not sound appetising but it’s like the outro rock number a band plays as they drunkenly smash-up their gear with the lights down low. “Lillies of the Valley” in contrast lets the melodic side of their compositions push to the front instead of being drowned in sound and hipster drones. It’s less of a wall of sound that Picnic Lightning go for which often covers that shoegaze angle, but a wall of separate melodies that smash together – and it’s this that lets them stand out. Single “American Ruin” is still my personal favourite because it distils their sound into its most direct form of tight hooks, huge sounds, detuned guitar riffs and raucous vocals into a 2.5 minute anti-anthem.
Outside hooks and walls of sound however lays “Ecosystem” which returns to the slow waltzing side of the band. It has more in common with wild west country tracks at times than grunge and is the albums sparse breather track. The bands use of stereo really helps to pull apart the guitars and let them shine with their own motifs. Showing they want to try it all though “Ten Million Thoughts” is a riff laden piece. The main guitar and bass weave a funky riff that is immediately catchy and channels the sound like a buzzsaw before the explosive choruses go full on rock. It’s another personal standout for me and helps me define Picnic Lightning as a band that brings shoegaze-like elements to other types of rock. It’s what makes for a diverse but cohesive sound and album. Equally fun is “(Son of) Fort Worth, TX is About to Explode” which is a short 60’s inspired piece with huge chords, psychedelic moments of vocal effects and plenty of charm. “Fever Dream” then adds fingerpicking rodeo riffs that would not be out-of-place in a Western movie to the mix. The track has drive and urgency to it that the rest of the album doesn’t have whilst being quite cinematic at the same time – a definite spaghetti western standout with a fantastic instrumental ending. The album itself ends with the psychedelic “House of the Lynx” which reminds me of a more drunk cross of the weirder Beatles and Temples music as electric raj like guitars glisten down each speaker whilst endless bass riffs unfurl front and centre.
Picnic Lightning are a band that bring that smashed up wall of guitar noise to other sub genres of rock that don’t usually get this kind of treatment. They are at their best when going for the messed up / psychedelic moments as those tracks are monumental whilst the quieter ballad tracks lack some of the intrigue that initially draws you in. I am however, really keen to see how the band progress in the future because they’ve definitely found a clever twist with tons of room to explore and expand from. Is there a genre called Spaghettigaze yet?
Recommended Track : Ten Million Thoughts