Untold scores of bands have come up to take their swing at the 2000s indie rock sound, so much so that the bat has burst into splinters which have rained down and scattered the world over. Party Muscles is one of the latest purveyors of such sounds, and though at first listen I initially found little noteworthy about their two-song Demo output, I soon found myself enjoying it despite myself. Both tunes are laid-back earworms birthed from a clear appreciation for the details of the influences they invoke. The question now is: where’s the rest?
Truth be told, I was pretty aware of Party Muscles dropping this pairing back in April. Odds are good that I listened to it then, but I may have been too ensnared in the space-sugar vines of Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer to focus on much else (an innocent enough offense, tell me that album isn’t pure gold). When I saw the opportunity to write about it, I remembered vaguely enjoying the tunes and jumped back in, this time with analytical ears.
I wasn’t exactly hot on this when I initially started listening. I was sort of ambivalent to the musical content in favor of wondering why it was made. What irritated me was this “been there, done that” feeling I had toward it, like I’ve heard this song and dance enough times from the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, The Raconteurs, Weezer, etc. The music clearly wears its influences on its sleeve, and for some reason this put me off and had me wondering what the value of rehashing dated ideas was. I tend to appreciate new music most when it is at least slightly off-kilter from an established styling, and I guess I was a bit miffed since this material is more of an unabashed love letter to its influences, who explicitly include The Strokes and The Hives (two bands named in their own Bandcamp bio, though there’s plenty here to suggest various unnamed others). I listened, re-listened, and then left the material alone for a bit. After meditating on it (and catching myself singing “I don’t wanna be your secret, you don’t wanna be anything more than that” from their song “She Goes To Juuliard” a couple times), I eventually scrapped my criteria for judgement because it was a bit too stuffy considering the nature of the material. All collegiate hyper-critical platitudes aside, this never needed to be more than what it is: a fun pursuit in nostalgic tunes.
With these two songs, Party Muscles do a good job of giving us a sample of what they’re about. Although the band is now filled with Beau Gordon on bass and Josh Strange on drums, this output in particular is actually a product of the guitarists Colin McCarry and Tyler Pursel rough hammering-down of ideas, complete with some automated drum tracks which like a . Despite the low-fidelity implications of demo status, there are some nice touches that show stylistic intent, like the warm distortion on the vocals that open up the aforementioned “She Goes To Juuliard” and the sentimental and equally concise “Lorraine”. This establishes a distinct worn-in aesthetic that adds to the tributary nature of the music. These dudes are also capable musicians and songwriters, since their dedication to executing the driving, deceptively simple rock style they clearly love with sincerity is backed up by playing chops which are only really evident when they’re meant to be. This isn’t about showing off, but some riffy punctuations in the leads break up the layered guitar work to provide tasteful hints at their abilities. And above all else, their ridiculous name (is it a euphemism? perhaps a reference? I’m feeling the former but the jury’s out) is disarmingly fun in a way that prepares listeners to not take things so seriously.
While Party Muscles may not reinvent the indie rock wheel, they certainly keep it spinning in tip-top shape. For all the weirdness I experienced in first approaching this demo, I leave it now with an appreciation for the traditionalism of it and genuinely can’t wait to hear more (this two-song demo can only get so many listens before I start to picket protest).
- Heartful emulation of 2000s indie rock with admirable attention to detail
- Short, sweet, fun, and catchy
- Great hair
- Not covering any seriously new ground
- Not terribly deep listening
- Not enough music to feel really absorbed, at least for now
Addendum: This release is no longer available on Bandcamp. We will include a link when/if it is reuploaded!