This album is a great example of why a lot of the time it doesn’t make sense to try to pigeonhole a band into a certain genre. Punk, surf rock, grunge, garage rock, some psych rock sounds, all of it is found on Subtle Luxuries, the debut album from Boston band Midriffs. So, let’s just say, it rocks, in a really good way.
The lo-fi recording quality on this record is exactly how it should be. Sometimes when an album sounds slightly less than perfect and polished, the rawness of the sound is what makes it feel genuine. It’s nice when a record has the vibe of not trying too hard, while still presenting great songs that are carried by a very real energy.
They start off the record right, with “Taboo Tattoo”, an infectiously upbeat less than two and a half minute song with a punk attitude that grabs your attention and leaves you wanting more. However, before you can expect more of the same on the next track, they hit you with a walking bass line and surf rock guitar tone that make you quickly realize Midriffs have a lot to offer.
Listening through the fourth track, “Green on the Grass”, and thinking back to how the album started, it’s impressive how much the sound evolved over the course of half of the album, while still maintaining enough of an overall feel that flows incredibly well. This track is dreamier, more melodic, but they still never lose their edge. If someone went into this album thinking they were just getting a run of the mill punk record, they’d likely be very surprised to find themselves happily drifting off into a world of atmospheric reverb at the song’s close. Of course, only to be snapped right back into more fast paced action when the next track “Wine Waiter” hits.
Midriff shifts and flows through styles throughout the album, but never sticks to one for too long, making for a listen that is always interesting, and never boring or predictable. The guitar part that kicks in at the last minute of “Down By The River” takes you by surprise, with a “Oh, and they can play like that too!?” type of reaction. They then follow that with a purely instrumental surf rock track, always keeping the listener on their toes.
It will be interesting to see where they take their music on future recordings. Perhaps they’ll take one of these sounds and go further down a more narrow, specialized road. But that would be unfortunate, as it is the blend of so many great sounds that make this album what it is. Keep the reverb, keep the raw punk energy, keep shredding, keep yelling, and stay a little dreamy, because damn, these songs sound like a good time. I’ve never seen Midriffs live, but I hope it’s as much fun as it sounds. I envision a dirty bar, with good friends, some head banging, some dancing, a lot of yelling along, and a lot of beer, some of which is being thrown about over an extremely happy, energy filled crowd. Who doesn’t want some of that?
Subtle Luxuries can be listened to in full, and downloaded here.
Key Tracks: Taboo Tattoo, Death Beach, Down By The River