You know those ole drinkin’ buddies you have? Everyone with a penchant for debauchery has ’em. You thought you’d be fun-lovin’ drunkard scamps forever, but the flow of time offers resistance.
Real life takes precedence over getting real f*cked up. You might buy a suit, actually sort your socks, or begin to think about celery as a snack. And those drinkin’ buddies? They’re doing the same; gym passes and yoga classes have replaced endless pint glasses.
But now when you get together, you have more to talk about than how messed up you are. You treasure the drops of chaos, but you don’t become wrinkled from soaking in them for too long. Wisdom and experience and exposure have broken you out of a shell that you didn’t even know you were trapped in.
On their new album, The Novaks are the same ole Novaks, but they’ve aged exquisitely. There are semblances of their gritty garage rock punctuated throughout Eager Power Gentle Fury but now it’s just one of the tools hanging in a well-stocked shed.
They waste no time getting right to it: “I Saw Her Pick You Up Outside Your House Last Night” sparks the record, and soars with new wave synths. Under the hood, though, is classic Novaks rock n’ roll. It’s a stock feature of basically every track: they’re all slick new models, but they’re running a reliable engine: sometimes they effortlessly cruise, other times they rev it just for the sake of it.
Its multitudes more exploratory than the group’s past pursuits, which is something anybody familiar with band’s radio rock past will instantly notice, but don’t be put off by the change in pace; those pop proclivities are still present. There’s consistency in the innovation, with production playing a huge role. The rhythm section is coarse, the guitar tones grind and sing, the synths envelop, and the vocals sit on top with raspy poise.
The unabashedly huge closer “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is a homage to authentic rock n’ roll of yesteryear, and even to The Novaks of old. “Hearts” bounces around for a while with dark tones, but crescendos into a wailing guitar solo over a Rush-like chorus. There’s change, but there’s still a comfort zone.
My own vote goes to a ditty though: “I’d Wait For Anyone Who Would Wait For Me” is a cutesy little folksy refrain with great slide guitar work and hummed harmonies. Its charm contrasts with the more abrasive fare surrounding it, but for all the right reasons.
It wouldn’t be hard to ignorantly and dismissively toss this into some sort of St. John’s has-been pile. It might be years since you thought The Novaks were relevant, but this album though. This album isn’t some rehashing of a generic rock approach. It succeeds because it does something that isn’t expected out of bands anymore: it brings change. It’s a surprising gem that’s versatile but consistent; modern but classic.
The music of The Novaks is akin to those ole drinkin’ buddies. They might care about mortgages or carbs or car payments now, but when you do get to go out with them, you know you’re all the same as you always were. You’re just refined, you’re sleeker. You have real confidence. You’re into new things. You try harder than you ever did even though you don’t even need to. Everything just comes naturally, and it shows. It’s OK to grow up.
The Novaks will release their new album September 17th at The Rockhouse, with guests India. Tickets are $15, and available at Fred’s Record’s & the Ship Pub.