A snarling, devil-may-care attitude used to be one of the defining characteristics of rock’n’roll. When that attitude folded into post-grunge’s misogynistic machismo (in approximately 1995, when grunge’s rebellion had completely metamorphosed into radio-readiness), indie-rock picked up the emotive banner, effectively abandoning the gritty bad boy image for an excess-is-rock’n’roll mentality or emotions-are-rock’n’roll ideology.
All this to say, I was really pleased to hear Night Flowers‘ snarly attitude. It’s dangerous, sexy and attractive (not about being dangerous, sexy and attractive). Their sound has a liberal amount of garage-style grunge in it, as well as a heavily sarcastic attitude. “Pep Rally” is about cheerleaders who are vapid and don’t understand anything about football. This is not a groundbreaking topic, but Tara Rice’s brutally sarcastic portrayal of the main character makes it feel much more important. She disdains them, and the track lets you know it.
There are some lighter moments in their self-titled EP; “Knock on Wood” has a pleasant, if somewhat off-kilter, vibe to it. Tara Rice’s voice just sounds nice and light on top of the jangly guitars. Skodt McNalty contributes some vocals, and if there wasn’t the distortion-heavy “Man of the People” as a buffer, you might be fooled into thinking Night Flowers is some sort of indie-pop band, what with the bell kit and harmonies and all.
But they really are closer to that than is apparent on first listen. “Fortune Cookie” does have ominous overtones and a Portishead-ian vibe, but it’s pretty pop-heavy in the vocals. Its dreamy quality is unique to the album, further downplaying the original glance of Night Flowers.
While Night Flowers does have a seriously grungy side to them, that’s not all they bring to the table. They aren’t a one-trick pony, even if that one trick is a really great one. This EP exposes various aspects of their sound and is more of a primer on what’s to come than an actually cohesive release. It’s got good songs on it, but its display of several different styles presents a slightly un-unified front. They’ve got some work to do in making their albums work as a whole with all their differences. But as the grungy guitar eventually enters “Fortune Cookie,” I think they will find that balance soon. For fans of The Hives, White Stripes, Portishead, and generalized garage rock.